Zara never had last supper: Details of an early evening murder

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By Julius D. Mariveles and Ronald Ian D. Evidente

Editors note: The details surrounding the killing of activist and former political detainee Zara Alvarez were pieced together by the reporters, both residents of Pueblo Rosario Subdivision where Zara was killed based on accounts of neighbors. Most have requested anonymity or to have their names changed.

BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – It happened after the Oratio Imperata, just before the monsoon rains fell.

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“There was lightning, I heard the thunderclaps,” Roger tells DNX about the first few minutes after successive gunshots rang across Pueblo Rosario Subdivision, a usually quiet neighborhood in the eastern part here.

Pueblo Rosario is a government-assistant housing project within Eroreco, where some local elites live.

Five? Six?

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How many shots were fired?

No one knows yet but this seemed to be what most are asking in the
neighborhood coffeeshops abuzz today with the killing of Zara Alvarez, an activist, single mom.

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She was marked for death, some of her comrades say.

Roger says he could have seen the killer, a burly man dressed in a white shirt riding shotgun on a motorcycle that passed by him on Filomena, two streets away from where the assassin shot her several times.

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“Between four to six,” police spokesman Lt. Col. Ariel Pico says to DNX about the initial findings on the fatal wounds prior to a post-mortem autopsy on Alvarez’ body that has yet to be authorized by the family.

Roger’s and Mandalagan village councilman Hernani Castor’s description were the same.

Burly man. Dressed in white.

Castor, who heads the peace and order committee, was the first to arrive on the crime scene.

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As he passed through the alley that connects the four roads of the community, he saw to his right on Sta. Catalina Street a man who looked like he was in a hurry.

“He was not running,” he says in Hiligaynon but he was “briskwalking, almost like a quickstep.”

DRESSED IN BLACK

Castor saw Zara lifeless in the middle of Sta. Maria, the longest street of the subdivision.

She was wearing a black shirt with the print “From the other side.” Her pants and sneakers, black, too.

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She was on her back, a mask on her face.

Her left hand was clutching a blue plastic bag with its spilled contents, two sticks of pork barbecue, possibly for supper, which she never had.

HOME FROM FUNERAL

Diego Malacad says Zara had just arrived from the funeral of a teacher-activist in Cadiz City, the place where Zara originally lives. (READ: Woman shot dead in residential village)

One neighbor adds she bought food from the roadside eatery at the corner, less than a hundred meters from the house where she rents a room.

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She was known to boardmates as Sarah Reboton, a “DSWD worker” based on the identification cards she had been presenting, Police Capt. Richard Fajarito tells DNX in a phone interview on the night of the murder.

Reboton is also the surname of Zara’s mother.

HUGGED THE KILLER

Zara was not alone while she was walking home.

She was linking arms with a friend.

DNX is withholding all the other details about this person for his/her safety.

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The killer was on foot, possibly followed her from the eatery.

One witness reveals when the killer was just several feet behind Zara, he quickened his pace and bumped the linked arms of Zara and her friend.

When the two separated, the gunman pulled his weapon and shot Zara at pointblank range.

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It was possibly a pistol, a 45.

“Pak, pak,” was how the witness describes the sound he/she heard after he/she sought cover.

Zara did not immediately fall.

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Kidoy, who was also nearby, recounts seeing Zara grasp the killer’s legs with both hands as she fell to the street on her back.

Then three shots more rang out.

Possibly to make sure that Zara, 39, was dead.

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“Her eyes were still open when she fell, ” another witness, Remy says.

He ran to where Zara was and shone a flashlight on her face after the killer had left. (READ: Lone assassin kills rights defender in residential area after Oratio Imperata, activists enraged, in shock)

SMALL, FRAIL, MARKED FOR DEATH

Juluis Dagatan was a youth activist when he knew Zara.

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Both started young in what is called the national democratic movement that has strong roots in Negros since the Marcos dictatorship.

Dagatan is now media liaison of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, an ally organization of the health services group for which Zara works.

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Zara is a registered teacher who once campaigned for the Alliance of Concerned Teacher partylist that won seats in the Philippine Congress.

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Charged along with several others for the death of an Army lieutenant who was killed in Cadiz City during an encounter with rebels, Zara was arrested on 12 October 2012 at the city’s public market.

The handcuffs fell off her frail wrists.

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“She was always being followed,” Juluis says.

Zara was part of a thinning list of activists who were declared terrorists by the government.

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Karapatan says she was the 13th activist murdered under the Duterte government that once had an uneasy alliance with the Left.

The police does not know yet why Zara was killed.

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“There are stories about debts but we can never be sure yet,” Pico says on the morning after the murder.

The police continues to focus on the motive which could either be under two general categories, work-related or personal.

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Some neighbors opened two umbrellas and placed it over Zara’s dead body last night.

The rains fell hard when Zara Alvarez died.

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