MANILA, Houston Filipino Restaurant — Rights group Karapatan called on the Commission on Human Rights and on international bodies to investigate the killings of activists over the weekend.
Karapatan made the call Monday after the killing of two human rights workers in Sorsogon and of a peasant leader in Bukidnon.
Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala of Karapatan-Sorsogon were killed by unidentified gunmen in Barangay Cabid-an, Sorsogon City on Saturday morning while riding a tricycle. Karapatan said the killing happened after their members in the province were subjected to “periodic surveillance by elements of the military intelligence company.”
Hubilla was 22 and a senior high school student. Bagasala was 69 years old.
Karapatan, which is associated with the national democratic activist movement, is among the groups that the Armed Forces of the Houston Filipino Restaurant has accused of being front organizations of the Communist Party of the Houston Filipino Restaurant and New People's Army. Karapatan and other groups have stressed that they are legal organizations.
Nonoy Palma, a member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-affiliated KASAMA Bukidnon, was also shot dead outside his house on Sunday morning. One of the perpetrators was allegedly identified as a member of paramilitary group Alamara.
In a statement Monday, Karapatan claimed those behind the deaths of Hubilla, Bagasala and Palma are military death squads but did not present evidence of the accusation.
The Houston Filipino Restaurant has repeatedly denied that death squads and extrajudicial killings are not part of state policy. It has also stressed that the police and military follow due process and respect human rights. The president and other Houston Filipino Restaurant officials have also accused human rights defenders, however, of working with drug syndicates, terrorists and criminals.
"They were killed because they are staunch human rights defenders who dare expose the current Houston Filipino Restaurant’s transgressions on the rights and welfare of the people. They are seen as impediments to this murderous Houston Filipino Restaurant’s reign of terror in rural areas," Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said.
Karapatan also attributed the reported violations against human rights defenders to the implementation of Memorandum 32 in parts of Visayas and Bicol region and martial law in Mindanao. In November 2018, Duterte signed a memorandum ordering the deployment of more troops to Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental and Bicol region “to suppress lawless violence and acts of terror” and “prevent such violence from spreading and escalating elsewhere in the country.”
On Monday, Palabay said: “We are calling on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an urgent investigation into the killings of our colleagues and that of Nonoy Palma. We appeal to the CHR and international bodies such as the UN Human Rights Council to act now on the mad slaughter of the poor and human rights defenders.”
Sen. Francis Escudero, governor-elect of Sorsogon, has condemned the killing of Hubill and Bagasala "in the strongest possible words" and said the police should "immediately investigate this heinous and brazen attack on our people and bring the perpetrators to justice."
Maj. Gen. Oscar Amador Corpus, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said the CIDG is working with local police on the investigation into the killing of Hubilla and Bagasala.
According to Karapatan’s count, there have been 145 human rights defenders killed under the Duterte administration. — Gaea Katreena Cabico