Wednesday, June 6, 2012

‘Bloody May’ for ecologists: killings, harrassments and acquittal of violators under Aquino

by Rod Harbinson, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (

As the United Nations Human Rights Council is currently reviewing government and independent reports in the Philippines’ universal periodic review, green groups expressed alarm today over what they described as “Bloody May,” as documented extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations (HRVs) towards ecological defenders this May are historically the most to occur in just a month.
“Like a grim reminder to the continuing universal periodic review of the Philippines’ state of human rights, four ecologists have been killed in the month of May alone. Community leaders like farmer Francisco Canayong and advocates like journalist Nestor Libaton are the latest reported among a total of 16 killed under the persisting impunity of the Aquino administration,” said Leon Dulce, convenor of Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED).

Canayong, a farmer leader from Salcedo, Eastern Samar, was repeatedly stabbed to death on May 1 by unidentified assailants who are suspected to be motivated by his staunch opposition to illegal Chinese mining companies in their lands. Libaton, an environmental broadcaster, was shot on May 8 by gunmen in motorcycles while he was attending a fiesta celebration in Tarragona, Davao Oriental.
Earlier reported cases were the killing of biodiversity conservationist Frederick Trangia last May 6 in Compostela Valley, and anti-dam activist Margarito Cabal the following day in Bukidnon.
“While environmental advocates are meeting their untimely deaths at the forefront of environmental struggles, President Aquino has neither done definitive actions to quell impunity towards ecologists and other mass activists, nor fast-tracked outstanding cases filed against perpetrators of killings. The search for the Reyes brothers, suspected masterminds in the killing of Palawan environmentalist Gerry Ortega, until now has produced no results. Mario Kingo, the suspect in the killing of Romblon anti-mining activist Arman Marin, has recently been acquitted from murder charges,” said Dulce.

Harassment and vilification of ecologists, especially anti-mining activists, also persist under the Aquino administration. The latest case involved Sr. Stella Matutina, a Benedictine nun and secretary-general of Mindanao-wide environmental alliance Panalipdan Mindanao, who is being tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a member or supporter of the New People’s Army.

Matutina has subsequently filed a complaint in the Commission on Human Rights against the AFP’s 28th and 67th Infantry Battalion.

TF-JED, alongside with other green groups and in cooperation with the German human rights group Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (GfbV International) have submitted a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council detailing the human rights situation of environmental activists in recent years.

“We want to demonstrate to the international community the persisting impunity in the Philippines, and the incompetence and culpability of the Aquino government along with mining and other corporate interests in protecting environmentally-destructive investments that catalyze these HRVs,” said Dulce.

In the statement, TF-JED, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and GfbV International called on the UNHRC to urge the Aquino administration to address human rights violations in the country, stop the vilification of activists, recognize and uphold indigenous people’s rights and withdraw the counter insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.###

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