Killing spree of human rights defenders continues with murder of peasant organizer in Bicol, activist in Camarines Sur

Human rights watchdog Karapatan said “there seems to be no end in sight for the killing spree of human rights defenders” as the group condemned the killings of peasant organizer Lorenzo Paña and activist Aldrin Enriquez. Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated that “even the last days of 2020 were marked by killings and massacres — and now, merely days into 2021, another activist has been murdered by the police and military.”

“State security forces are terrorizing civilians to squash dissent by murdering and silencing activists, human rights defenders, dissenters, and government critics,” Palabay continued.

Paña was the former chairperson of Hugpong sa Mag-uuma Dapit sa Kasapdan (Humanda Ka), a district formation of Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. He was gunned down by still-unidentified assailants on December 30, 2020 in Balilihan, Bohol as he was on his motorcycle to bring lunch to his son. Paña and his family have been repeatedly red-tagged and harassed by the police and the military even if he was no longer a full-time organizer of Humanda Ka.

Meanwhile, Enriquez, a member of the Camarines Sur People’s Organization (CSPO), was killed in Iriga City, Camarines Sur on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, as the police forcibly entered his house around midnight and shot him to death after he was handcuffed. CSPO is an affiliate of Karapatan – Bicol.

The Karapatan officer averred that “we’ve seen these killings before — where activists are red-tagged and vilified as ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorist sympathizers’ before they’re just suddenly gunned down by unidentified gunmen or shot dead inside their own houses during police operations for allegedly fighting back and resisting arrest. Red-tagging is not only a target being painted on the backs of activists and human rights defenders but a clear and dangerous death sentence.”

“We face 2021 ringing our call to stop the killings in the Philippines and to scrap the murderous policies and bodies that enable them, such as Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. We join the families of Paña and Enriquez in mourning and in demanding justice for their cold-blooded and merciless murders. These killings will not stop us in our struggle to defend people’s rights and resist Duterte’s fascist rule,” she ended.