MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights on Friday, May 3, condemned the “senseless killing” of Archad Ayao, the latest in a string of attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines.
In a statement, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said that the rising number of killings “is a testament that violent rhetoric and vilification of human rights concepts is deadly.”
“This will only result to the already ongoing climate of fear and will weaken the works and influence of human rights defenders in the country who continue to challenge all forms of injustices and hold people in authority to account,” she said.
Ayao, a 28-year-old human rights investigator for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was shot dead by unidentified motorycle-riding men on Wednesday, May 1, in Cotabato City. Pio Orteza, the driver of the habal-habal he was riding, was also killed.
Police have yet to determine the motive behind the killing.
Ayao is the latest human rights worker killed under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. with rights group Karapatan estimating the number to reach at least 134.
The killings happen amid Duterte and his allies’ attacks against human rights advocates in the Philippines. The President himself has completely demonized human rights, according to many groups, consistently painting it as an obstacle to the “change” he wants to achieve for the country.
The United Nations in a September 2018 report listed the Philippines among countries whose governments subject human rights defenders and activists to “an alarming and shameful level of harsh reprisals and intimidation.” (READ: Powering through a crisis: Defending human rights under Duterte)
These groups have taken upon themselves to employ security protocols to protect their members amid the culture of impunity and attacks against dissent in the country. They also lobby for the passage of a bill that that will recognize the essential their roles in ensuring a peaceful and equal society. (READ: Protecting human rights groups vs threats)
CHR, meanwhile, urged the government to investigate the killing of Ayao and the rest of human rights defenders, including threats and harassments.
“Human rights advocates remain to be at risk in the country’s political climate at present, that’s why we urge the government to collaborate and protect those who champion for human rights rather than encourage any forms of attacks on them,” CHR’s De Guia said. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.