Filipino environmental activists under the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) confirmed the findings of the recently released report of international anti-corruption NGO Global Witness on the situation of Filipino land and environmental defenders.

In particular, they highlighted trends observed by the report, entitled ‘Defending the Philippines,’ on how “martial law has emboldened [military] to use force to silence environmental and indigenous activism, with 52 defenders have been killed extra-judicially by the army in the last three years.”

“The Global Witness report reveals damning evidence of how Duterte’s military and paramilitary have essentially functioned as mercenaries for large-scale mining and other extractive and destructive business projects. By using brute armed force to guarantee and secure dirty investments, Duterte has indeed failed in his promises to protect the environment and indigenous peoples, and curb corruption,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

“Martial Law is clearly not the so-called tool to save democracy that Malacanang wants to paint it to be. For us Filipino environmental defenders, it has functioned as a tool for repression and to promote the unimpeded plunder of our natural resources by big businesses,” Dulce furthered.

The group also confirmed that analysis of Global Witness that killings are the “sharp end” of a broader impunity against land and environmental defenders.

“We ourselves have been recently subjected to red-tagging, state surveillance and threats of an impending raid into our headquarters. Our members in the Cordillera region have been subjected to years of vilification that peaked with the attempted assassination of US citizen and local paralegal Brandon Lee, who was working with our anti-dam communities in Ifugao,” explained Dulce.

“The impunity is so widespread that we fear that it is a forceful preparation for a nationwide declaration of Martial Law,” Dulce said.

Earlier last September 10, Kalikasan PNE delivered a scathing report on the disturbing trends on the rights situation of environmental defenders before the National Inquiry on Human Rights Defenders by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Among the highlight data they reported were:

Attacks against anti-mining advocates, comprise 58.3% of the monitored killings from 2001 to 2018, followed by agribusiness plantations with 27% and logging with 17%.

State security forces and their force multipliers are either suspected or confirmed to be behind 65% or 144 of the total.

Sudden spikes in killings were associated with new mining policies such as the Mining Revitalization Program and the Mining Executive Order of former presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino, respectively. Duterte’s counter-insurgency policies caused the biggest spike.

Victims hail from the most marginalized sectors in the rural countryside, with 43.5% coming from small farmers and landless agriworkers, and 35.9% coming from indigenous people.

They stood in defense of an estimated 2,669,850 hectares of important landscapes and seascapes.

Mindanao is the ground zero of environmental defender hotspots with 50% of the cases occurring there, and 3 of the 4 provinces with the most killings being located in the restive island group.

“We strongly call for an independent investigation into the function of military and paramilitary groups as mercenaries of large-scale mines and other extractive and destructive projects across the Philippines. We also demand for the immediate cessation of the Martial Law declaration over Mindanao and the institutionalization of a national policy that will protect the rights of Filipino environmental defenders and other human rights defenders from the atrocities especially of state security forces,” ended Dulce.#