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They killed Zara Alvarez but not her legacy, says Cebu activist

Those behind the slay of activist Zara Alvarez succeeded in ending her life, but not the legacy that she left in all the communities that she helped in Negros Island, a human rights defender in this city said on Thursday, August 27.

Karapatan Cebu spokesperson Dennis Abarrientos said in a phone interview with Rappler on Thursday that Alvarez's killers apparently thought “that she would achieve more for the promotion of human rights” if she remained alive, and that all her hard work would die with her.

They were wrong. “They failed to kill the legacy that she has started. It’s already in the mindset of those she has reached in her human rights advocacy among the peasant communities, among the human rights victims," Abarrientos said.

"They will not be like Zara but they will always try to be like her in determination and in the unsinking commitment to fight for what is right in spite of the sacrifices," he added.

He also said that even though Alvarez was an organizer in a separate island fellow rights activists in Cebu saw how hard she worked in promoting human rights.

Alvarez was shot multiple times by unidentified men in Bacolod City on August 17. She was killed a month after President Rodrigo Duterte signed the controversial anti-terror law, and a week after Anakpawis chairman Randall "Randy" Echanis.

Abbarientos said he first worked with Alvarez during a fact-finding mission  in Negros in the 1990’s.  

Alvarez was part of the documentation team, and also had responsibilities and coordinated with farmers and victims for interviews, said Abbarientos.

He said Alvarez would also reach out to Cebu activists from time to time to act as support groups to augment the teams in Negros. She also gave paralegal assistance to lawyers handling cases of human rights abuse. 

Abarrientos described Alvarez as someone they could count on. 

"She was open to our ideas and she’s very receptive to new ideas which she easily integrates to the plan. This is without sacrificing her views and analysis of the situation of the areas they have first responded to," he said. 

Abarrientos said the last time he worked with Alvarez was for a Visayas-wide consultation on the status of cases filed against activists and ordinary farmers from militarized zones, and the respective countercharges. 

Alvarez then was closely working with human rights lawyer Ben Ramos, who was killed in Kabankalan City in Negros Occidental on November 6, 2018. 

Alvarez was laid to rest on on Wednesday, August 26.

Alvarez was among the more than 600 people that the Department of Justice wanted to tag as terrorists in a proscription case filed in February 2018. That list has since been trimmed to just two exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison and alleged Mindanao Commission Secretary Antonio Cabanatan. – Rappler.com