More than 300 rights groups, advocates ring call to #StopTheKillingsPH on the first year since the killing of Zara Alvarez

Photo by Lucky Dela Rosa/Philippine Collegian

Human rights organizations and advocates across the world asserted the call to stop the killings in the Philippines and to prosecute President Rodrigo Duterte for his crimes against the Filipino people as various groups led by Karapatan marked the first year since the killing of human rights worker Zara Alvarez in an online solidarity program today, August 17.

In a unity statement signed by over 300 organizations and individuals, including religious leaders, artists and cultural workers, women’s rights organizations, youth activists, civil libertarians, lawyers, peace advocates, as well as environmental, land, and indigenous rights defenders, the signatories demanded an “end to all the bloody campaigns and policies that have facilitated these murders.”

“As August has come to be marked as a month of killings in the Philippines under the Duterte administration — an administration whose legacy is widespread killings, suffering families left behind, and state terror, we choose to mark August as a month of remembering and reckoning: a month of taking action and demanding justice. This State policy of mass murder must end,” the statement read.

Along with the killing of Alvarez, August also marked the killings of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos, 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, and 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman in police anti-drug operations in 2017, as well as the killing of peace advocate and peasant leader Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis, who was also killed August last year.

Signatories of the statement said that the killings in the drug war and in line with the government’s counterinsurgency campaign “have only intensified with brazen impunity, where even under the COVID-19 pandemic the onslaught continues” as “domestic mechanisms of accountability have proven to be slow, ineffective and essentially unavailable for prosecuting the perpetrators of these killings.”

With the request of former International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open an investigation into crimes against humanity in the drug war, the groups noted that “President Duterte, however, seems undaunted and even remorseless” as he taunted the ICC during his last State of the Nation Address and “shamelessly reiterated this State policy of mass murder.”

According to data from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the death toll in anti-drug operations has reached 6,165 as of June 2021 and thousands more have been killed by unidentified gunmen in vigilante-style executions, while Karapatan has documented 414 killings — among them 211 human rights defenders — in line with the government’s counterinsurgency campaign as of June 2021.

“We call on international bodies, such as the ICC and the UN Human Rights Council, to conduct impartial and independent investigations into the human rights crisis in the country and to prosecute President Duterte and his allies for their cruel crimes against the Filipino people,” the groups and advocates urged in the unity statement.

In the #StopTheKillings PH online solidarity program at 6 p.m. today, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, Bishop Reuel Marigza, Karapatan’s Cristina Palabay, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines’s (ICHRP) Peter Murphy, Commission on Human Rights Chair Chito Gascon, former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Atty. Neri Colmenares, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, as well as Senators Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros and families of victims of extrajudicial killings will deliver solidarity messages together with the leaders of various human rights groups to reiterate the call for an end to the killings in the country.

The online solidarity program was organized by Karapatan, the #CourageON: No Lockdown on Rights coalition, the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines, and ICHRP as a culmination of the various protest activities during the #StopTheKillingsPH Week of Action from August 9 to 17.