DAVAO

Velez: Chronicle of deaths unfold

Tybox

MONDAY, and death was all over the news.

First was the rumor that the President was gravely ill in Davao and might have flown out of the country the night before.

The rumor persisted and fueled when the usually glib foreign affairs secretary seem to broke down in his speech welcoming OFWs upon mentioning the President. And then the spokesperson described the absence of the President as a state of "perpetual isolation."

The President's health has been subject to much speculation for the past years, with physical signs that demand explanation, plus his limited appearance in the public.

That morning, activists marched on the streets to bury Randall Echanis, a peace consultant and life-long advocate of agrarian reform who was murdered on the wee hours of Monday a week ago inside his apartment in Novaliches, Quezon City.

His death stirred activists and even church people who have worked or consulted with him on the peace talks. How can a man who worked for peace all his lifetime since the Marcos dictatorship meet such a violent end?

The funeral march for Echanis showed defiance of the progressive movement against what they see is a cowardly act to silence people fighting for justice and change. Echanis is the second peace consultant of the NDF to be killed in recent years, the first was Randy Malayao.

Later that night, the President finally appeared, on a photo showing he was dining with his family, and his partner holding Monday's newspaper as proof the photo was taken that day.

Later, he appeared on a short video message taken in a hotel lobby where he was about to attend a brief meeting.

Just as we learned the President was alive and well, another activist was gunned down in Bacolod.

Zara Alvarez, 39 years old, was a paralegal and health rights advocate working for a community health group, who had been active in conducting relief operations for the poor during the pandemic.

Another activist, Jory Porquia of Bayan Muna Iloilo, was also gunned down on April 30.

Activists raged on how they lost one colleague to another in the past week. We are losing the best, says one advocate online.

And later that night, the President on his regular Monday night press briefing ranted again about shabu, about the international human rights groups.

We are living, or rather, surviving and struggling, in a pandemic, and we wonder does life and death matter with a state that is fascinated with death?


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