April 2023 saw the murder of labour rights activist Alex Dolorosa and the disappearance of two activists, struggling for indigenous rights, Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus and Bontoc-Ibaloi-Kankanaey Dexter Capuyan.
Alex Dolorosa was found dead with 15 stab wounds in Bacolod City on April 24, 2023. Dolorosa was a legal assistant at BIEN Pilipinas, the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) Industry Employee’s Network, which advocates labour rights in the outsourcing industry. BIEN reported that Dolorosa had been a victim of “state surveillance and harassment” since early 2023, forcing him to change his place of residence.
The causes and the course of Dolorosa’s murder are still under investigation by the local police station in Bacolod. Human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), as well as several trade unions, strongly condemned the murder of trade union and LGBTIQ activist Alex Dolorosa and called for a thorough investigation. HRW’s Carlos Conde stressed that Dolorosa’s work with BIEN as well as the surveillance and “red-tagging” (i.e. falsely accusing him of supporting the communist insurgency) that preceded the murder, must be included in the murder investigation. Dolorosa’s murder underscores the severity of the threat situation of human rights defenders, BPO added.
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), as well as relatives and friends of Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus and Bontoc-Ibaloi-Kankanaey Dexter Capuyan, defenders of indigenous rights who have been reported missing since April 28, 2023, have come to the public in search of information and their whereabouts.
De Jesus is from Bulacan and was involved in various student initiatives as a journalist and activist before graduating cum laude with a degree in communication studies in 2016. He also served as information and networking officer for the Philippine Task Force on Defending the Rights of Indigenous People before his disappearance.
Capuyan was a student at the University of Baguio and editor-in-chief of a student magazine. He was identified by the government as belonging to a “communist terrorist group” and listed as a suspected leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Before his disappearance, Capuyan resided in Benguet and travelled to Rizal for medical treatment. A high bounty has been placed on his arrest. For this reason, CHRA fears that Capuyan and De Jesus are in government custody without the knowledge of their relatives; CHRA has already called for their release.
Photo © Johannes Icking