Farmers demand #JusticeForZaraAlvarez

No let-up in political assassinations

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemns the cold-blooded assassination of Negros-based human rights activist Zara Alvarez last night. Alvarez was reportedly shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen at around 6pm of August 17 in Brgy. Mandlagan, Bacolod City, Negros. She was 39 years old. The killing occurred just a few hours after the remains of slain peasant and peace advocate Randy Echanis were laid to rest. “We offer our sincerest condolences to Zara’s family and loved ones. Napakahayop ng rehimeng ito, hindi pa natatapos magluksa ang mamamayan sa pagpaslang kay Ka Randy ay isa na namang aktibista ang inagawan ng buhay!” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos laments.

“We call on every peace-loving Filipino to light a candle today, August 18 for Zara Alvarez, and to participate in a global day of action against political killings tomorrow, August 19. We maintain that Alvarez, like Echanis, who has selflessly devoted her life to a just cause, can be murdered only by fascist state forces. We demand and vow to pursue justice for Zara Alvarez and Randy Echanis,” Ramos said.

As part of Karapatan-Negros, Bayan-Negros, Alvarez was a staunch human rights defender working with the poor since her days as a college student at the Philippine Normal College in Cadiz City.

“The farmers of Negros have lost a selfless and firm ally. Zara was killed because of her principles and advocacies,” Ramos says. She has been instrumental in the documentation of human rights violations such as arbitrary arrests and killings done against farmers and other rural poor in Sta. Catalina, Sagay, Escalante, Kabankalan, Bacolod, and all over Negros. Alvarez led the conduct of national and international fact-finding missions on peasant killings and rural militarization, such as that of Sagay Massacre last 2018. She has consistently criticized and protested against Memorandum Order (MO) Number 32 which assigned several battalions in Negros, Bicol, and Samar. She was part of Defend Negros, a network formed to monitor and expose the rampant violation of human rights in the island region after the implementation of MO 32. 

Persecuted for her human rights advocacy, Alvarez was unjustly detained in 2012 but immediately returned to human rights work after being released on bail in 2014. Like Echanis, she was included in a 600-item long list of “terrorists” released by the Department of Justice in a petition last 2018. Her name was later withdrawn after much public opposition. “It appears that a death squad for activists is using this DOJ terrorist-tagging proscription list as a hit list of sorts. This is the life-and-death dangers of terrorist-tagging, so comfortably done by the president and his men.” Alvarez’s name and photo still appeared on red-tagging posters on the streets of Negros that same year. The trumped-up case charged against her has just been dismissed this March 2020. 

As in the case of Echanis’ killing, the killing of Alvarez occurred amid heightened police and military presence supposedly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, state-backed mercenaries are taking advantage of the lockdown situation to carry out their sinister actions to neutralize activists supposedly branded as ‘enemies of the state’ and ‘communists-terrorists.’ ###

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