Karapatan: No justice in sight for Ka Randy and Zara under Marcos Jr. as red-tagging of advocates, rights defenders continue

Justice remains elusive for peace advocate Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis and human rights worker Zara Alvarez two years after their murders, human rights alliance Karapatan said on Wednesday, as the group renewed its calls for accountability and for an end to the red-tagging of human rights defenders and advocates, which the group asserted was “tantamount to a death sentence.”

“It’s been two years since the gruesome killings of Ka Randy and Zara but to this day, those behind their deaths are still not held to account. With each passing day the justice is not served for them and for the thousands killed under the murderous Duterte administration, impunity only festers — especially as the Marcos Jr. administration continues to turn a blind eye to our calls for justice,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Echanis, a long-time peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, was stabbed to death in his rented house in Novaliches, Quezon City on August 10, 2020; an autopsy report found that Echanis’ body also showed torture marks. For his tireless advocacy work, Echanis was arrested and detained three times under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., as well as under the administrations of Corazon Aquino and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Alvarez, meanwhile, was gunned down on August 17, 2020, at Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. She was a former campaign and education director and a paralegal of Karapatan – Negros Island. In 2012, she was arrested and falsely charged by the military with murder along with 42 other activists; she would remain imprisoned until her release on bail in 2014, and she was acquitted of the trumped-up murder charge in March 2020 for lack of evidence.

Both Alvarez and Echanis have long been at the receiving end of relentless threats, vilification, and harassment from State security forces. They were also among the at least 600 names included in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorists” in 2018. According to Karapatan’s documentation, at least seven of those in named in the petition have since been murdered.

Palabay continued that “Ka Randy and Zara were both brazenly and falsely tagged as terrorists — and even though their names were eventually removed, the DOJ’s proscription petition effectively put targets on their backs: they were openly red-tagged, and it cost them their lives. What now of the DOJ’s supposed investigation of their killings under the Administrative Order No. 35 task force? Is there even any progress?”

“With the draconian terror law and the atrocious NTF-ELCAC still in place, not to mention a serial red-tagger as DOJ secretary under Marcos Jr., we can only expect the wheels of justice to grind even slower. However, we will not relent in demanding justice for Ka Randy and Zara along with our calls to junk the terror law, to abolish the NTF-ELCAC, and to put an end to red-tagging once and for all,” she ended. ###