House probe on activist’s slay sought

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BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives is seeking a probe on the killing of human rights activist Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City on August 17.

House Resolution No. 1145, directing the House committee on human rights to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the extrajudicial killing of Alvarez in Bacolod City, was filed by Representatives Carlos Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat and Ferdinand Gaite, all of Bayan Muna party-list, Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s party-list), France Castro (ACT Teachers party-list), and Sarah Jane Elago (Kabataan party-list).

The resolution, that was filed this week, said the killing of Alvarez and other political activists came after multiple threats and pronouncements by President Rodrigo Duterte against human rights defenders and critics, declaring a bounty for the killing of alleged “communist rebels” and threatening to shoot rights activists who are “obstructing justice” amid the government’s war on drugs.

It also pointed out that amid the coronavirus pandemic, killings of activists and critics continue to intensify, even as varying levels of community quarantine and curfews are in place.

“Despite an increased number of checkpoints and law enforcement authorities deployed all over the country to enforce quarantine measures, motorcycle-riding gunmen out to kill activists seemingly continue to roam freely,” they said.

They added that Alvarez was the 13th human rights worker of Karapatan killed under the Duterte administration.

“Her killing is a threat to all human rights workers merely working to assist and help defend farmers, activists, and rights advocates despite threats to their person and even under increasing repression and limitations under the Covid-19 pandemic,” the resolution said.

The lawmakers said it is imperative for members of Congress, as representatives of the people, to defend the rights of the people and check on excesses and violations committed against them.

“Laws and rules should serve the interest of our people and abuses should be held to account,” they added.

Alvarez was on her way home to her boarding house in Eroreco Subdivision, Barangay Mandalagan, Bacolod, when she was attacked by a lone gunman. She succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds.

Alvarez, 39, was a teacher, a single mother, a former campaign and education director, paralegal of Karapatan, and advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program.*

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