“They tried to bury us; they did not know we are seeds:” Karapatan leads week of action to call for end to killings in PH

As August marks the commemoration of the killings of peace advocate Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis and human rights worker Zara Alvarez as well as drug war victims Kian Loyd delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, and Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman, various human rights groups led by Karapatan ring the call to stop the killings in the Philippines and to demand justice for all victims of the Duterte administration’s murderous campaigns through several activities and protest actions in the days of action beginning August 9, which will culminate in an online solidarity event on August 17.

Bearing the call “they tried to bury us; they did not know we are seeds,” human rights advocates as well as the families and friends of extrajudicial killings have initiated a social media campaign by posting their selfies with flowers, the names of the victims of the sham drug war and brutal war on dissent on their face masks and placards, and the hashtag #StopTheKillingsPH as “a message of hope, solidarity, and defiance,” according to Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, “in the face of a regime who wants us to cower in fear and silence.”

Artist Kevin Eric Raymundo, also known as Tarantadong Kalbo on Facebook and Twitter, also posted his #Tumindig artwork supporting the campaign.

“August marks a deadly month of killings in the Philippines — from Kian, Carl, and Kulot in 2017 to Ka Randy and Zara last year. In almost all of these killings, justice before domestic mechanisms have remained elusive and the killings have continued amid the pandemic, such as the recent killing of a mentally ill scavenger Eduardo Geñoga in Manila at the hands of an armed barangay tanod for supposedly violating quarantine restrictions, and it is clear that such brazen incidents of violence are incited and driven by a State policy of mass murder coming from Duterte himself,” Palabay stated.

The Karapatan official said that “along with the drug war and counterinsurgency campaigns, the enforcement of quarantine restrictions has increasingly facilitated the killings and other forms of violence and human rights violations against so-called ‘violators,’” citing the killing of 59-year-old Geñoga in Tondo, Manila last August 7. She continued that Geñoga is “the fourth known victim killed in the context of the implementation of the lockdowns; these are far from isolated incidents, especially under an administration that has openly ordered State forces to kill.”

Amid these killings, Palabay noted that the revival of the Supreme Court Committee on Human Rights in response to the reports and letters submitted by various human rights organizations is a “positive step” as she urged the committee to “immediately address the concerns on the rules of amparo and protection of human rights defenders and individuals at risk of State-driven threats as well as the killings, harassment, and attacks on lawyers and their clients, especially those who are victims of human rights violations.”

“We enjoin all human rights advocates to stand with us in strengthening the call to stop the killings in the Philippines, to amplify support for the victims and their families in their quest for justice, and to enjoin the United Nations Human Rights Council to conduct an independent investigation on the rights situation in the Philippines and the International Criminal Court to push through in investigating Duterte’s crimes against humanity. While August marks a deadly month of killings in the Philippines, we also choose to mark August as a month of remembering — and reckoning,” she further stated.

Together with Karapatan, the #StopTheKillingsPH days of action is organized by Rise Up for Life and for Rights, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, and Kodao Productions.

The campaign is co-organized by the #CourageON: No Lockdown on Rights coalition, Defend Negros #StopTheAttacks, Tanggol Magsasaka, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Promotion for Church Peoples Response, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and Pilgrims for Peace. It is also supported by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, the International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Front Line Defenders.