Human rights activist Zara Alvarez laid to rest

Slain human rights activist Zara Alvarez was laid to rest in her hometown at Cadiz City here on Wednesday, August 26, as calls for justice for her death continue to mount.

More than 300 mourners trooped to the Sto Nino Parish Church to catch a last glimpse of Alvarez and to condole with her family and friends. They also attended the funeral march to the Cadiz City public cemetery.

In a short message after the mass, her 74-year-old father Edgardo Alvarez thanked the people for joining them in the time of grief.

He also thanked the people for their undying love for Alvarez.

He is left to care for Alvarez's 11-year-old daughter.

Clarizza Singson, secretary-general of human rights group Karapatan Negros, thanked Alvarez's family for not only sharing her to cause-oriented organizations but to the people she served.

She vowed that they will continue to seek justice for her death.

On August 17, Alvarez was on her way home to her boarding house in Eroreco Subdivision in Barangay Mandalagan, Bacolod City, when she was attacked by a lone gunman. She succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds.

Alvarez, 39, was a teacher, a single mother, a former campaign and education director, a current paralegal of human rights group Karapatan, and an advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, who presided the mass, said the death of Alvarez will not be in vain as they will continue her work in defending human rights and those who are oppressed.

He said they will also seek justice for Alvarez and all other victims of extrajudicial killings.

He also lauded Alvarez for continuing to do her work in defending human rights despite the threats to her life.

Alminaza recalled that his last conversation with Alvarez was their shared concern over the growing number of killings in Negros Island. He said he even asked her what is the latest number on her list.

"Her message, from April 3 to June 24, there were 31 killed during the quarantine period in Negros Island," the bishop said, adding that most victims were linked to the drug trade, and that perpetrators, mostly riding-in-tandem suspects, were not identified.

He said there were more who were added to the list, and that they were shocked when, in August, Alvarez herself was included in her list.

Threats

Zara Alvarez, in her Facebook post on July 20 last year, said she was informed by the Karapatan national office about the threat to her life.

"This is another form of harassment against my life where everyday killings occur with an environment of impunity. I was already incarcerated for almost two years because of the trumped-up charges. After I was released last 2014, I still faced different forms of harassment," she said in a year-old social media post.

She said she was "seriously alarmed because this government is conditioning us that if the victims were killed or arrested, it is because they were either involved in drugs or supporters of [the] New People's Army.... We were conditioned that if we speak, we will face the consequence of being tagged as leftists, activists, insurgents, dissenters and, probably, will face some form of harassment."

"I am not the only one being threatened. Anybody who speaks against the President, exposing and opposing the anti-people policies of this present government, will surely be a target," she added.

She said she was afraid for her life and the many human rights defenders under threat.

"But I believe that what is more dangerous is if I remain silent in bringing the issues of the farmers and the many human rights issues. This threat is meant to silence me, and a warning to the growing numbers of political dissenters," she added. – Rappler.com