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Joint communication sent to the Philippine Government on the killings of Zara Alvarez and Carlito Badion

Human rights defenders are working within a climate of extreme insecurity in the Philippines

On 28 September 2020, together with the UN Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the right to adequate housing and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, I sent a communication to the Philippine Government on the killing of human rights defenders Zara Alvarez and Carlito Badion.

Ms Zara Alvarez was a women human rights defender and paralegal for the Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights (Karapatan), a national alliance of human rights organisations and individual human rights defenders established in 1995. She resided on Negros Island, where she had documented the killings and arrest of farmworkers and peasants since 2017.

Mr Carlito Badion was a human rights defender and National Secretary General of KADAMAY, the National Alliance of Filipino Urban Poor. He advocated for the universal right to adequate housing.

According to the information received:

Mr Badion had been the target of intimidation and harassment for his work on behalf of the urban poor in the Philippines since 2014. This treatment intensified from 2017 onwards, as a result of the human rights defender's role in the Occupy Bulacan campaign. He last spoke to a family member on the evening of 26 May 2020, before going missing on the same date. His body was found two days later near the house of a friend in Ormoc City, Leyte province where he had been staying.

Ms Alvarez had been receiving threats via SMS since 2019, including in April 2020 as she distributed rice in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. This threat purportedly came from State Security Forces. On 17 August 2020, the women human rights defender was shot dead in the Mandalagan district of Bacolod City.

In the communication, we expressed extreme concern at the killings, which appeared to compound the greatly worrying context of insecurity and risk for human rights defenders in the Philippines. We stated our specific concerns as the following: “between January 2015 and December 2019, the OHCHR was able to verify the killing of 208 human rights defenders, including 30 women human rights defenders. Since the beginning of 2020, we have received credible information detailing the killing of at least six further human rights defenders, along with information as to threats made against many more. The killing of human rights defenders often follows a pattern of escalating threats. In a large number of cases, these can be witnessed beginning with smear and defamation campaigns, both offline and online, fueled by hate speech undermining the crucial human rights work that defenders carry out. This stigmatization subsequently grows, and with its growth human rights defenders become exposed, to an evermore serious degree, to physical attacks.”

The full communication can be accessed here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25570

We are awaiting a response from the Government.

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