Red-tagging a prelude to the killings of activists and defenders -Karapatan

Karapatan denounces the coldblooded murder of another human rights lawyer in Negros. According to initial reports, Atty. Anthony Trinidad, 53, and his wife, Novie Marie, were on their vehicle yesterday afternoon when two motorcycle-riding assailants fired on them in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. They were later rushed to the Guihulngan District Hospital, where Atty. Trinidad was pronounced dead, while his wife remained confined due to serious injuries.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this ruthless killing of Atty. Trinidad, as we offer our sympathies to his family and friends. These attacks stem from the prevalent climate of impunity in Negros, where killers are emboldened to violate people’s rights without fearing for repercussions. The killing of Atty. Trinidad highlights the dire consequences of red-tagging on the lives and security of human rights defenders. It exposes that “hit lists” often translate to killings,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, citing that Atty. Trinidad was red-tagged prior to the incident.

The rights group noted that prior to killing of Atty. Anthony Trinidad, his name was included in a flyer where he was tagged as supporter of the CPP-NPA-NDF. In the said flyer distributed in Guihulngan City, 15 names were included. Of the 15, one other activist, Haide Flores, was gunned down back in August 2018. Another person included in the list, a health worker in Negros, also received death threats back in 2017.

The Karapatan official highlighted that two other EJK victims were included in “lists” prior to their killings. On November of 2018, human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, Jr. was killed in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental while last April 22, former Escalante Councilor Bernardino Patigas, was gunned down in Escalante city, also in Negros Occidental. Both were placed in the same poster-hit list, labelling them as terrorists. They were killed by motorcycle-riding men.

“Given this trend, we cannot stress enough the seriousness of red-tagging, especially in the context of heightened repression. As Negros is being battered by repressive policies, foremost counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan and Duterte’s Memorandum No. 32, human rights defenders are even put at greater risk. The architects behind these attacks are vicious militarists who think they can do whatever they want without any consequence. This is why we are inclined to believe that these attacks are perpetrated by murderers who are protected and coddled by powerful players,” Palabay explained.

She also emphasized that the pattern in these killings reinforces the need for protection for human rights defenders: “Petitions for the writ of amparo and habeas data that we submitted to the Supreme Court were premised on various incidents of red-tagging. Hit-lists are enumerations of targets. It is meant to harass, but it is also an explicit threat to one’s life. The fact that these lists include names of community leaders, activists and human rights defenders point to the conclusion that these violations are systematic and methodical.”

“We join the family of Atty. Trinidad in their call for justice. We mourn the loss of another brave lawyer who stood alongside the marginalized, and we march forward to continue the cause he defended,” Palabay concluded.