Slain HR activist laid to rest

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BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA

Human rights activist Zara Alvarez was laid to rest in Cadiz City, yesterday.*Julius Dagatan photo

Slain human rights activist Zara Alvarez, 39, was laid to rest in her hometown Cadiz City yesterday, as calls for justice for her death continue to mount.

More than 300 mourners trooped to the Sto. Niño Parish Church to catch a last glimpse of her and to condole with her family and friends. They also attended the funeral march to the Cadiz City public cemetery.

Her 74-year-old father, Edgardo Alvarez, in a short message after the mass, thanked the people for joining them in their time of grief.

He also thanked the people for their undying love for Zara.

He is left to care for Zara’s 11-year-old daughter.

Clarizza Singson, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan Negros, thanked Zara’s family for not only sharing her with the cause-oriented organizations but to the people she served.

She vowed that they will continue to seek justice for her death.

On August 17, Zara was on her way home to her boarding house in Eroreco Subdivision, Barangay Mandalagan, Bacolod City, when she was attacked by a lone gunman. She succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds.

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

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, who presided over the mass, said the death of Zara will not be in vain as they will continue her work in defending human rights and those who were oppressed.

He said they will also seek justice for her and for all other victims of extrajudicial killings.

He also lauded Zara for continuing to do her work in defending human rights despite the threats to her life.

Alminaza recalled that his last conversation with her was their shared concern over the growing number of killings in Negros Island. He said he even asked her about the latest number in her list.

“Her message, from April 3 to June 24, there were 31 killed during the quarantine period in Negros Island,” the bishop said, adding that most victims were linked to the drug trade and that perpetrators, mostly riding-in-tandem suspects, were not identified.

He said there were more who were added to the list, and that they were shocked that Zara herself was included.

THREATS

Zara, on her Facebook post on July 20 last year, said she was informed by Karapatan national office about the threat to her life.

“This is another form of harassment against my life where everyday killings occur with an environment of impunity. I was already incarcerated for almost two years because of the trumped-up charges. After I was released last 2014, I still faced different forms of harassment”, she said in a year-old social media post.

She said she was “seriously alarmed because this government is conditioning us that if the victims were killed or arrested, it is because they were either involved in drugs or supporters of New People’s Army…we were conditioned that if we speak, we will face the consequence of being tagged as leftists, activists, insurgents, dissenters and, probably, will face some form of harassment”.

“I am not the only one being threatened. Anybody who speaks against the president, exposing and opposing the anti-people policies of this present government, will surely be a target”, she added.

She said she is afraid for her life and for the many human rights defenders under threat.

“But I believe that what is more dangerous is if I remain silent in bringing the issues of the farmers and the many human rights issues. This threat is meant to silence me, and a warning to the growing numbers of political dissenters,” she added.*

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