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Investigate the Killings, Stop the Impunity

Friday, 23 September 2016

iDEFEND (In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement) condemns in the strongest terms the killing of former union president of R&E Taxi Edilberto Miralles , who was gunned down in front of the National Labor and Relations Commission (NLRC) office in Quezon City before noon on September 23.

The group called for the Commission on Human Rights to step in and investigate the death of Miralles along with other extra-judicial killings whose perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice.

The death of Miralles comes after that of Orlando Abangan, another labor leader from Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) from Talisay, Cebu, who was gunned down by a lone gunman last September 17. Climate justice and anti-coal advocate Gloria Capitan was similarly gunned down by unknown assailants last July 1 in Lucanin, Mariveles, Bataan., the first day President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.

iDEFEND asserts that a pervasive culture of impunity emboldens perpetrators of so-called vigilante-style killings, and has now claimed the lives not only of innocent citizens, children and bystanders but political activists and human rights defenders. The spike in vigilante killings could only boomerang on the PNP and the AFP as their inaction in this instance may be viewed as tacit approval of such crimes.

At the start of September, four farmers were shot dead by unidentified men in a farm located inside Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija. Emerenciana Mercado-de la Cruz, Violeta Mercado-de Leon, Eligio Barbado and Gaudencio Bagalay were all members of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa, tilling part of the disputed 3,100 hectares of land inside Fort Magsaysay. Several others were wounded.

On September 7, farmworker leader Ariel Diaz was shot to death by three men in Delfin Albano town, Isabela. Diaz is the chairperson of the Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela and was the head of the the provincial chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

On September 20, farmer-leader Arnel Figueroa, 44, was killed at the Yulo King Ranch in Coron, Palawan, while he was talking with a personnel of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB). The perpetrator was identified as Dan Nelson Mayo, a security guard on duty at the Department of Agriculture -Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI). Figueroa was the chairperson of Pesante-Palawan and their members are CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) petitioners. Figueroa and his companions were peacefully cultivating the land at the time of the incident. According to reports, Mayo sought refuge in a nearby PNP facility and even attempted to flee the scene of the crime.

iDEFEND appeals to the concerned agencies to address these cases in a speedy manner and points out that the climate of violence and killings has distorted the people’s collective sense of right and wrong.

“Environmental activists, labour organisers, and farmers are defenders of human rights. They are important partners for change in the country and are at the frontline of the work for sustainable development goals. iDEFEND demands that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

“It is the duty of state security forces to immediately investigate, apprehend and litigate the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. If not, then the suspicion in people’s minds that state security forces are in collusion with private armed groups in perpetuating these killings will remain.”

“Development and peace go together, and this is why the United Nations sees as central to the achievement of sustainable development the drastic reduction of all forms of violence, the promotion of the rule of law, and equal access to justice for all. Their loss is the loss of our nation’s future in peace and security. This lack of accountability and impunity must be addressed and justice must be served,” iDEFEND spokesperson Ellecer Carlos said.