A network of human rights groups warned on January 26 against what they described as “intensified” election-related violence following the killings last week of a couple connected to a partylist group.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemned the killings of Rosemarie Galias, 68, and Silvestre Fortades Jr, 70, who were members of partylist Anakpawis.
The couple were shot and killed by four motorcycle riding gunmen in the town of Barcelona, Sorsogon province, on January 15, 2022.
“The murder of the elderly political activist couple is the beginning of state murders in the presidential election campaign period, and must be vigorously condemned,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP chairperson.
“Our heart goes out to the families and comrades of these two martyrs of the people’s cause,” he added in a statement.
ICHRP noted that up to August last year, there were already 60 political killings in the Bicol region out of a total of 421 nationwide.
The group claimed that there are 43 political prisoners from the region, 10 of whom are women.
The killings in Sorsogon came in the heels of the arrest and detention of five residents in the fishing community of Patungan Cove in Cavite province after a violent demolition of their houses on January 13.
“ICHRP is gravely concerned that the repression under Duterte which we have investigated thoroughly last year will only intensify in this election campaign period,” said Murphy.
A study posted last year in the academic journal Pacific Affairs and authored by Dr Tom Smith from the University of Portsmouth and Dr Joseph Reyes from Lund University said election violence in the Philippines has worsened since 2004, contrary to claims by the government and previous research.
The study, which is the first academic research published on the issue in 23 years, noted the “murky role of state security forces” in the killings of journalists, assassinations of candidates, and attacks on voters and campaign groups.