Human rights leader killed in Philippine ‘war against dissent’

A human rights leader has been killed in the central Philippines in what observers and rights defenders have said is a continuing escalation of the “war against dissent” under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Zara Alvarez, former education director of the human rights alliance Karapatan, died on the spot after being shot six times on Monday evening as she was heading home after buying food for dinner. She was the 13th member of the organisation killed since mid-2016, when Duterte came to power, the group said.

Police said Alvarez was killed by an unidentified assailant in the central city of Bacolod. Witnesses reportedly chased the attacker, who got away with the help of an accomplice on a motorcycle.

On Wednesday, government investigators promised to investigate the case, adding that they are looking into the victim’s affiliation with alleged “leftist groups” as a possible lead for the attack.

Alvarez’s death comes just weeks after Duterte signed into law controversial anti-terror legislation, which allows for warrantless arrests and longer detentions without charge – provisions that legal experts warned could be directed at anyone criticising the president.

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