False accusations spread against environmental defenders, CSOs in the middle of COVID-19

May 17, 2020

Joint Statement of CEC and Kalikasan PNE

While Metro Manila is still under the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to COVID-19, false accusations are being spread against civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists including environmental defenders.
Last Friday, May 15, from around 7 to 11 in the morning, posters were put up on the walls and gates in Brgy. Central, Quezon City where offices of various CSOs are located, including the shared office of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. These were also spotted on some tricycles parked near the office. Written on these materials are baseless labeling of certain individuals that they are members of the CPP-NPA. The posters also claim that the organizations are in possession of certain youth.

This is not the first time our organizations were attacked. It can be recalled that in September last year, we received a raid threat for offering temporary sanctuary to Lumad children who evacuated from Mindanao due to militarization. CEC was also red-tagged twice by Southern Luzon Command Chief, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. for humanitarian work.

While we abide by the law of staying at home, some authorities can freely go out not to disseminate relevant information but to propagate lies– a definite violation of the ECQ and of human rights.
Environmental defenders in the provinces fall under the same situation. Last May 10, 6 farmers and leaders of peasant organizations in Calaca, Batangas who have been opposing the coal-fired power plant in their community were illegally arrested. On April 12, leaflets red-tagging the Cordillera People’s Alliance, an anti-mining organization, were dropped by army helicopters in some parts of the Cordillera.

Meanwhile, government officials who violate the quarantine rules and those who continue to perpetrate human rights violations are spared from accountability. Recently, National Capital Region Police Office Chief Debold Sinas was able to throw a supposedly prohibited mass gathering for his birthday, without having to face necessary punishment.

Amid the crisis when cases and deaths are piling up everyday, the government has chosen to vilify critics including organizations and advocates who actively campaign for a genuine COVID-19 response that regards environmental aspects. They are treated as a threat for further exposing the pitfalls of the administration’s militaristic lockdown. This entails immediate and long-term consequences of emerging infectious diseases due to ecological destruction.

We urge the government to stop the threats and intimidation on environmental defenders, activists and CSOs. Instead, it should concentrate its efforts in supporting their COVID-19 related campaigns and in reaching vulnerable sectors in these times when social solidarity is all the more vital to rise up from the crisis. It should also intensify relief assistance, security to our frontliners in the form of PPEs, enough compensation, and hazard pay, and mass testing and contact tracing. The ECQ had already been extended thrice since its initial “deadline” and testing has only reached a mere 0.5% of the country’s population.

We call on the Filipino public to continue demanding our rights to health, and airing out our concerns and grievances that are crucial in this moment when our lives are at stake.