The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is seeking justice for the killing of human rights activist Zara Alvarez as its Region IV Sub-Office in Bacolod City launched a motu proprio investigation on the case.
Alvarez, a former education director and a paralegal staff member of the human rights group Karapatan, was shot in the back by unidentified gunmen on Sta. Maria St. in Eroreco, Barangay Mandalagan in Bacolod City on Aug. 17.
CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement that Alvarez’s killing is another addition to the “alarming” string of attacks against human rights workers and defenders.
“The CHR sees this as a cause for concern, especially that the number of cases is still growing and justice is nowhere in sight,” she said.
Based on reports obtained by the Commission, Alvarez had been a target of Red-tagging and was once included in the list of more than 600 people that the Department of Justice (DoJ) wanted to tag as terrorists back in 2018.
While her name was eventually taken off the list, the CHR said that she was not spared the ultimate violation of her rights as she was gunned down recently and succumbed to death.
The CHR said that Alvarez’s death only shows how the Red-tagging of human rights defenders constitute grave threats to their lives, liberty, and security.
“Further, tagging human rights workers and advocates as terrorists distort the nature of their work and make them open, legitimate targets to attacks and a number of violations,” De Guia added.
The CHR called on the government to fulfill its human rights obligations. The Commission likewise said that the defense of human rights must not be misconstrued as acts of destabilizing the government.
“It is a reminder to the government, including all of its officials and officers, of their sworn duty to the people,” De Guia said.
Even if the killing of Alvarez was not linked to her work, the CHR said that the duty of the government to prevent arbitrary deprivation of life from happening should not be erased.
At the same time, the government must keep communities safe and free from attacks to human life and rights, she said. “And, should violations happen, (the) government must step up as well in ensuring that perpetrators are held to account,” she stressed.