UN body calls for probe on slayings of Philippine activists Echanis and Alvarez


Peace consultant Randall 'Randy' Echanis (left) and rights defender Zara Alvarez, who were murdered just days apart. - PDI/ANN

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN): The United Nations Human Rights Office has urged the government to hold “independent, thorough and transparent investigations” into the killings of peace consultant Randall 'Randy' Echanis and rights defender Zara Alvarez, who were murdered just days apart.

“The UN Human Rights Office stresses the need for independent, thorough and transparent investigations into the killings and for those responsible to be held to account, ” said Liz Throssell, spokesperson for UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, in a statement.

Both Malacanang and the Philippine National Police denied that President Rodrigo Duterte ever made such an order.

President Duterte, as a lawyer, “adheres to the rule of law and he wants the wheels of justice to grind, for the sake of the victims of abuse and violence and their families, ” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement on Saturday (Aug 22).

“The administration is equally interested to unmask those behind these brazen killings, which are being blamed to state agents, and we will leave no stone unturned to put these people behind bars, ” he said, hours before the PNP released its own statement.

“The Philippine National Police categorically denies that President Duterte issued any order prohibiting the release of information or data with regard to the ongoing investigation on the recent attacks against rights defenders and activists, ” PNP spokesperson Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said.

“The CHR is free to conduct its own investigation and accordingly, to develop and procure its own evidence, ” Banac said.

“This is independent and separate from the standard protocols of the Philippine National Police.”

Despite the denials, Duterte himself told the police and the military in his 2017 State of the Nation Address not to participate in the agency’s probes and that he would abolish the CHR.

The OHCHR spokesperson also expressed alarm that both Echanis and Alvarez were tagged as terrorists before they were murdered and their names appeared on a list of 649 people that the government wanted to designate as terrorists.

Alvarez’s name and photo also appeared in a poster tagging her and several others of being terrorists.

“While the list was later truncated, many who were removed from the list, including Alvarez, continued to report harassment and threats, as highlighted in the High Commissioner’s human rights report on the Philippines published in June this year, ” Throssell said.

Throssell noted that following Alvarez’s murder, one of her colleagues, Clarizza Singson, received a death threat via Facebook warning her that she would be next.

“This is particularly worrying as Singson’s name also appeared on the abovementioned list of suspected terrorists and her photo is included in the same poster, ” Throssell said. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

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