This article by Nick Aspinwall shows how repression has intensified in the Philippines with a draconian lockdown being used as a weapon in the hands of the regime. It was published on Vice 27 August 2020.
Coronavirus Lockdowns Have Not Stopped Vigilante Killers in Duterte’s Philippines
Activists targeted by the government are stuck at home due to draconian lockdowns, giving them no way to escape from the hitmen actively hunting them down.
Zara Alvarez, a legal worker for the human rights alliance Karapatan, was on her way home from buying groceries on August 17 in Bacolod City, about 700km south of the Philippine capital Manila, when she was shot three times in the back by an unidentified gunman. She was finished off with multiple shots as she lay sprawled on the street.
Randall Echanis, a longtime peasant leader and left-wing party chair, was apparently tortured and stabbed to death along with his housemate in their home in Quezon City one week prior.
Alvarez and Echanis were both “red-tagged,” or linked by state security forces to the country’s decades-long communist insurgency. It’s a method of state intimidation that remains deadly even during the pandemic.
Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines is in chaos as the president struggles to contain Southeast Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreak. But although strict regional lockdowns have led to a relative slowdown of Duterte’s deadly drug war, they have not stopped the extrajudicial killings of his political enemies.
“Our mobility is restricted, our routines are restricted,” Palabay said, leaving activists confined to “places where the most likely killers and harassers have access.”
Philippine police and military have been given free rein to enforce a series of the world’s strictest COVID-19 lockdowns that the United Nations human rights office has slammed as “highly militarized.” In July, Duterte signed a controversial anti-terrorism bill, allowing the government to decide who can be considered a terrorist. Critics fear it is designed to target legal dissent. Read more