The Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines condemns the intensifying attacks on land and environment defenders just less than a month into the effectivity of the sinister Anti-Terrorism Law.
Several posters slandering land and environment defenders were posted outside Sta. Ana Church in Davao City’s proper earlier this August. Among the faces involved were environment advocates Ms. Meggie Nolasco and Dr. Jean Lindo. Ms. Nolasco was a former staff in CEC while Dr. Lindo is a member of the Environmental Defenders Congress, which was co-convened by CEC.
These past two weeks also saw the brutal execution of agrarian reform advocate and peace consultant Randall Echanis and the assassination of health worker and rights advocate Zara Alvarez. Both of them have been repeatedly red-tagged (tagged as communists or terrorists) before due to their line of work. This ‘conditioning’ had been used as prelude to several killings of land and environment defenders even before Echanis and Alvarez.
The killings reek as state-sponsored due to the handling of the police on these cases (e.g. nabbing of Echanis’ cadaver) on top of the President’s dire sentiments on rights workers. Similar cases before, such as the murder of Atty. Ben Ramos, also remain unsolved despite increased budget for the police and intelligence. These attacks on advocates foreshadow the danger under the recently-signed Anti-Terrorism Law.
Environment defenders are increasingly put into danger as the atmosphere of state-terror intensifies. In 2019, the Philippines ranked second in the world as deadliest country for land and environment defenders in 2019, with a total of 43 recorded killings.
CEC calls for justice for the slain advocates and expresses the need for independent, thorough, and impartial investigations into the killings to hold accountable those responsible. Moreover, we call on the government to stop the killings and all attacks on rights and environment defenders amidst the unabated health crisis.