Karapatan assails latest killing of former journalist and village councilor in Eastern Visayas

"Two more civilians were killed in Eastern Visayas - one a former journalist and another a village councilor by riding-in-tandem gunmen. The use of riding-in-tandem gunmen was a rampant modus operandi under then-President Gloria Arroyo's brand of State terrorism. This is done to mask the perpetrators and  conveniently refute any link that the attacks were State-perpetrated. Increasingly under the Duterte government, this method is now back as the preferred choice for killing activists and human rights defenders," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Human rights group Karapatan strongly condemns the killing of Maureen Japzon, a former journalist for alternative media Bulatlat and former coordinator of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines in Eastern Visayas. The victim now currently works as an officer of the Commission on Elections in the region. According to reports, Japzon was shot dead in Brgy. San Pedro, Mac Arthur, Leyte on Tuesday, October 15; she was shot seven times. She was among the journalists who exposed human rights violations in the region under the time of Gloria Arroyo's butcher Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.

On the afternoon of the same day, Renee Superior, a village councilor in Libungao, Kananga, Leyte was also reported killed. Several other barangay officials have been targeted in the region for supporting campaigns against militarization.

"The spike in the killings and arrests in Eastern Visayas is a direct result of Memorandum No. 32, which placed the regions of Eastern Visayas, Negros, and Bicol under "a state of lawlessness." This has triggered the widespread targeting of who support various legitimate calls. Any resistance is met with a range of human rights violations," Palabay explained. 

The Karapatan official added that "these attacks are meant to instill fear among the population. The killing of Japzon sends a chilling message to journalists who continue to face various forms of harassment in Leyte and in many other regions. Likewise, the targeting of local officials is meant to discourage support for legitimate issues and grievances of their constituents. All these are within the government's scheme to silence dissent. M.O. 32, alongside the implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, is championing State terrorism in the country."

Palabay adds that the killing of Japzon serves a very dangerous precendent not only for journalists and local officials who speak truth to power, but to all Filipinos who suffer from violations perpetrated by this government: “In our current political context where speaking out and supporting campaigns is enough to earn a one-way ticket to the hitlist of State forces, our activism and unity remains as a concrete form of our defiance. The continued killings are indicative of the government's desperation to suppress voices that call out its failures and remind of its mandate. It merely exposes this government's rotten and militarist core.”

“We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of Maureen Japzon and Renee Superior. As the killings have worsened, we are duty-bound to amplify the call for justice and accountability, and to boldly work on resolutions to end these fascist policies. State terrorism is in our midst - equipped by the full machinery and resources of the Duterte government. Yet we persevere to expose these violations, organize the families, call for impartial investigations, and help strengthen direct actions for justice and accountability," concluded Palabay.