Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has denounced the recent killings of two human rights worker from Karapatan who were both reportedly subjected to periodic surveillance by the military and police operatives before their deaths.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, underscored the need to seriously investigate the incident to ensure justice for the victims and their families and find out the involvement of state agents in the crime.
“The deplorable murder of two Karapatan members is nothing but an attack against all fearless warriors who fight for human rights, justice and freedom. Dalawa lamang si Ryan at Nelly sa libu-libong biktima ng karahasan at patayan sa bansa, kung saan madalas na target ang mga nasa laylayan na walang kalaban-laban, at ang mga nagtatanggol sa kanilang karapatan,” she said.
“Aside from investigating this alarming trend of killings targeting human rights defenders in the country, there is an urgent need to thoroughly investigate why the two victims were subjected to periodic surveillance conducted by uniformed personnel, and if this surveillance has something to do with their deaths,” she added.
Two members of rights group Karapatan from Sorsogon, Bicol – identified as Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala – were reportedly gunned down at around 8:20 in the morning last June 15 at a subdivision which is just a kilometer away from the City Police Office in Barangay Cabid-an, Bicol.
Based on initial reports, the two were killed by still-unidentified assailants onboard a motorcycle after escorting Atty. Bart Rayco, who visited his clients, all of whom were identified as political prisoners, at PNP Cabid-an.
Prior to the killing incident, Karapatan revealed that Hubilla and Bagasala, whose deaths add up to the snowballing record of rights defenders killed under the Duterte administration, were tailed by a gray pick-up vehicle and a black motorcycle that had no license plates last April 21.
With human rights defenders still under serious attack, De Lima reiterated the need for the government to stop turning a blind eye to the importance of pushing for the passage into law of a bill protecting HRDs from any forms of abuses.
“Don’t we find it alarming that the bad guys keep on unleashing bloodbath victimizing the very defenders of human rights without fear for accountability anymore?” she asked,
“Ngayon, higit kailanman, kailangan natin ng batas para protektahan ang mga tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao, na laging nalalagay sa panganib dahil sa kagustuhan nilang tindigan ang inhustisya sa bansa,” she added.
Recently, De Lima vowed to refile in the upcoming 18th Congress the human rights defenders’ protection bill, the House counterpart measure in the Senate, which was unacted upon by the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon during the previous Congress. Note that last June 3, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading House Bill (HB) No. 9199, also referred to as the “Human Rights Defenders Protection Act,” but its Senate counterpart filed by De Lima, SB No. 1699, languished at the committee level since February 2018.