Karapatan on Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement on the killing of activists Zara Alvarez and Randy Echanis

We are revolted at the Duterte administration’s doubletalk. While Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque denounced violence against activists, his cohorts in Malacañang including President Rodrigo Duterte and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict had been on record several times ordering and inciting violence on us. This pervasive and harmful rhetoric has been so publicized that the whole world knows it.

Even United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has noted it in her report on the Philippines: “The [harmful] rhetoric has ranged from degrading and sexually charged comments against women human rights defenders, politicians and combatants — including rape ‘jokes’ — to statements making light of torture, calling for bombing of indigenous peoples, encouraging extreme violence against drug users and peddlers — even offering bounties, calling for beheadings of civil society actors, and warning that journalists are not immune from ‘assassination.’”

Thus, blaming State forces as the people behind these killings — these extrajudicial killings — are not only well-founded allegations. These are substantiated in the cases and complaints filed before the local courts and the Supreme Court, the Commission on Human Rights, the joint mechanism of the government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and international human rights mechanisms. These were proven in the case of butcher Jovito Palparan, who with cheerleader Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her military generals, killed, disappeared, and tortured — despite similar denials in the past.

The United Nations defines extrajudicial killings as acts of unlawful and deliberate killing carried out without due process of law and outside of the judicial process by State agents or with their complicity, inducement, tolerance and acquiescence.

Thus, we consider any pronouncement by the President and his minions especially before the public inciting harm on and the killing of activists and human rights defenders as direct orders for State forces. Any jeer, any post, any comment, any poster, any case should be considered as acts of complicity or inducement. Any unsolved case is an act of tolerance or acquiescence. Not a single case on the killings or disappearances of activists can be trophied by this administration or its Administrative Order No. 35 task force.

Throughout the country, Karapatan’s human rights workers investigating and documenting cases of human rights violations have been vilified online and offline. Every day, we receive death threats from State forces. Every day, streamers and posters from the military and police are brandished wrongfully tagging us as “terrorists” and “criminals.” Our website, a public information tool, has been subjected to cyber attacks. Our bank accounts, organizational and personal accounts, are all being restricted. Our office in Tacloban City was raided. At least seven of our rights workers were arrested and imprisoned on baseless charges. Our colleagues, including our chairperson Tita Lubi, Randy Malayao, Zara Alvarez, and Randy Echanis had been included in the proscription case of the Department of Justice. Thirteen of our colleagues, including Zara, had been killed. Such have been our stories under this administration. 

When we went to the Supreme Court to seek legal protection on these cases, the Court of Appeals hurriedly dismissed our petition for writs of amparo and habeas data. Two of our witnesses, Ryan Hubilla and Zara, were not able to testify because of this act by the Court of Appeals and they were killed, not given the opportunity to be heard by the court which was supposed to provide succor to victims. We were even charged by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and are on trial for these malicious charges.

Lecturing us to keep our mouths shut, to trust this administration’s untrustworthy investigations, and to have confidence at those who ordered, incited and/or tolerated these despicable human rights violations are simply not acceptable. We are not simply revolted or frustrated, we are disgusted, we are angry, and we are left with no choice but to work with some domestic mechanisms like the Commission on Human Rights and independent international mechanisms to pursue accountability and justice. We are left with no other choice but to steel and strengthen our resolve and work for people’s rights. 

Cristina Palabay
Karapatan Secretary General