Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines condemns the abduction of Elen Tijamo, Program Coordinator of Sustainable Agriculture from Central Visayas Farmers Development Center (FARDEC), on June 13, 2020 and it is suspected that it was done by state forces. According to human rights group Karapatan, the abductors were reported to be four men with rifles and two women with masks on. Elen was abducted around 8:00PM in her home in Barangay Kampingganon, Bantayan, Cebu.
FARDEC was the cooperating organization of Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (GBK) in 2015 and 2017. GBK is an biennial event headed by CEC to recognize environmental heroes and organizations working with local communities in protecting our environment. FARDEC has advocated for land reform and sustainable agriculture and yet they were red-tagged as “front organization of Communist Terrorist Groups” by the Department of National Defense (DND) during a hearing of the House National Security and defense panel on the AFP modernization program last November 2019. The same accusations were also thrown to Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) by the government. CPA is also a recipient of 2009 Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan. As an organization, they struggle to protect their ancestral domain and the remaining forested areas in the country.
It is reprehensible that land and environmental defenders are under attack under the public health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic. During this crisis, farmers have struggled due to lack of subsidy and difficulty to transport their farmed goods. To add insult to the injury, Duterte’s draconian government is brewing the Anti-Terror Bill to legalize the attacks against environmental defenders who dissent against this fascist regime.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III with his own words said, “No need for martial law if new anti-terrorism bill becomes law.” Environmental defenders like Elen Tijamo will experience even harsher harassment, intimidation, threats, and even murder once the bill is approved. CEC calls to resurface Elen Tijamo and to stop the red-tagging of land and environmental defenders. Furthermore, we call for President Duterte to veto the proposed bill. CEC also calls for environmental defenders and environmentalists to resist the government’s fascist attacks against environmental defenders.