Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has demanded for accountability for the death of around 150 human rights defenders (HRDs) under the present administration, the recent of whom was former regional coordinator of Bayan-Bicol Neptali Morada.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said the Duterte administration should stop playing deaf to what she called “organized” and “merciless” killings of activists and human rights defenders in the country.
“It is not taxing to the imagination to realize that these killings already follow a pattern, and what is troubling is the seeming cold response of the authorities,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 538.
“This is so serious a matter that the government should be reminded that civil society and the international community are aware and vigilant. Halos 150 nang HRDs sa bansa ang napaslang sa ilalim ng administrasyong ito at ang bawat isa rito ay pananagutan ng pamahalaan,” she added.
Last June 17, Morada was reportedly shot dead by a still-unidentified assailant on board a white vehicle while he was on his way to the Camarines Sur Capitol Hall in Pili, where he worked as a staff of former Vice Governor Ato Peña in San Isidro Village.
Morada’s murder happened just two days after two members of Karapatan, a human rights non-governmental organization, identified as Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagasala were killed in Sorsogon.
The lady Senator from Bicol said the merciless killings of Morada and other human rights defenders in the country only affirmed that Mr. Duterte’s fake war on drugs target both suspected small-time drug pushers and rights activists.
“Ang pagpaslang kay Mr. Morada ay isa na namang mapait na patunay na hindi na lamang mga mahihirap na drug addict at pusher ang target ng War on Drugs kundi pati mga Pilipinong naninindigan at lumalaban para sa karapatang pantao,” she said.
Amid records of killings in Bicol Region, De Lima also wondered how Memorandum Order No. 32 issued by Malacañang in November 2018, which deployed more soldiers in Bicol region, Samar and Negros Island supposedly to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror,” is being implemented.
“How do we explain the fact that these regions now tend to host this surge in the killing of activists and HRDs?” the former justice secretary asked. De Lima has 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.