On 25 November, 2020, Ignacio Arevalo was shot and killed inside his home in Purok 13, Brgy. Mat-i , Surigao City in the Philippines. Arevalo, was a purok chairman and a leader of NAGAMI, an association of small-scale miners.
Members of the 29th IBPA (army) and PNP (police) troops forcibly entered the house of Arevalo in the middle of the night, handcuffed and dragged him to the kitchen area where he was shot. It was only later, around 3 o’clock, AM, that the SOCO unit of the PNP-Surigao City arrived along with the media and a local councilor of Brgy. Mat-i. News immediately went out that a member of the NPA was killed in his house because he fought back using his .45 caliber handgun.
However, according to Arevalo’s family, Ignacio could not have fought back because he had been immediately handcuffed by the military and police. Meanwhile, they were taken to another room and covered with a sleeping mat by the military and police. It was during this time that the .45 caliber handgun, bullets and other military supplies were allegedly planted in their room.
There has been no proper investigation into the circumstances of the killing.
Under the Duterte administration, perpetrators – be they police, military or non-state actors – know that they can get away with killing human rights defenders.
The killings of HRDs are rarely investigated, which increases the vulnerability of HRDs who remain active, while undermining the human rights community’s confidence in the justice system.
In addition, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was hastily passed in July 2020, has further compounded the precarious situation for HRDs by legally formalising the practice of “red-tagging” defenders with overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism.