Violence has no place in the country, Malacañang said on Wednesday as it denounced the killings of human rights activists Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez.

“We denounce any form of violence perpetuated against citizens, including activists,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

“We are a nation of laws; and violence has no place in any civilized society.”

Roque also rejected claims that government forces were behind the killings.

“Blaming state forces as the people behind these murders is unfounded as investigation on the killings of Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez is now underway. Let us wait for the formal report from the authorities,” he said.

Alvarez, paralegal of Karapatan Alliance Philippines, was shot dead on Aug. 17 in Bacolod City.

The slay came a week after Echanis, a National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant, was killed in his rented house last Aug. 10.

Both Alvarez and Echanis’ names were included in a petition by the Department of Justice in 2018 to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorists.”

Activist groups claimed the killings were “state-sponsored.”

“That [Alvarez] was gunned down merely a week after Ka Randy Echanis was brutally tortured and murdered… strongly suggests that these senseless and cold-blooded killings are part of an orchestrated murderous rampage to silence dissent, with human rights defenders as targets and fair game,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Following Echanis’ death, former Anakpawis congressman Ariel Casilao said: “[President Rodrigo Duterte] has already signed the death order of activists and peace consultants upon the enactment of the anti-terrorism law.”

Duterte, whose presidency has been defined by a bloody drug war that has claimed thousands of lives, signed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 last July 3.

In July, Duterte said law-abiding citizens should not fear the new law. “Huwag ho kayong matakot kung hindi ka terorista,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro