Two Years of Martial Law in Mindanao, Two Years of All-Out Attacks Against Environmental Defenders

May 23, 2019

Statement of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines on the second anniversary of the Martial Law Declaration in Mindanao

It has been two years since President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law in the whole of Mindanao as response to the so-called “terrorist” threats and promise of security and prosperity, however, in reality it only worsened the situation of the people, especially those defending their communities and natural resources from corporations and large-scale destructive projects by the government.

Human rights violations in Mindanao have worsened in the last two years. Harassments, threats, arrests and even killings have increased. Mindanao has the most number of environmental defenders killed under the Duterte administration with 112 deaths or 50% of the total according to the report of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment. Compostela Valley has the highest number of killings with at least 33 cases reported. Local communities have reported that military and paramilitary troops have remained the primary suspects in these atrocities.

Most of the killings are located in areas with proposed or ongoing projects in mining, plantations, and logging. These are also found in key biodiversity and mineral-rich areas such as the Pantaron Mountain Range in Northeastern Mindanao, Siocon Reserve in the Zamboanga Peninsula, and Tiruray highlands in Southwestern Mindanao.

Victims of the human rights violations are often indigenous and rural communities that are protecting their homes and ancestral lands. Among the known victims are Emerito Samarca, then Executive Director of ALCADEV, and Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo who are known local lumad leaders. They are known to criticize mining operations and atrocities of the military against the lumad schools in their area. They were killed in 2015 by the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani who are allegedly being armed and supported by the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA). In 2017, there were also another eight farmers in Lake Sebu killed by suspected state forces because of their opposition to the plantation and mining operations grabbing their ancestral lands.

Martial Law in Mindanao have paved way for further environmental plunder and have tormented local communities by destroying their natural resources, by driving them away from their homes and ancestral lands, and livelihood. Martial Law has intensified the people’s suffering and has opened doors for corporate investments and projects that are destructive to the environment and to the communities. This is aside from the fact that the people defending their rights to these resources are often called terrorists and labeled as criminals by the government.

In this time of environmental crisis, plants and animals are not the only ones endangered or threatened but also the very people who are defending and protecting them and securing a sustainable future for the next generations of humanity. Martial Law in Mindanao is destroying both the people and the environment. Today, we are in unity with our fellow environmental defenders in Mindanao in the unwavering assertion for our right to a healthy and balanced ecology, and to life and just and long-lasting peace.

Stop environmental plunder!

End martial law!

Stop the killings!

Defend environmental defenders!