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Global Witness Report 2018 - Philippines, highest record of killings of Community Rights Defenders and green activists

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Protect Green Activists and Rights Defenders:  Government must stop business activities abusing human rights

Quezon City - Members of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) called on the Duterte administration to protect land rights defenders who are resisting destructive projects including mining, coal-fired power plants and plantations. The call comes as the Global Witness issued its report showing that the Philippines recorded the highest number of killings in 2018, with 30 murders.

The Global Witness is an international NGO of economic networks established in 1993, focusing on conflict, corruption and environmental abuse.

Killings and harassments of people critical of the government has been escalating in the past three years, prompting the UN Human Rights Council to pass a resolution last July 12, 2019, which demanded an investigation and report by Philippine authorities on the human rights situation in the country. The resolution was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in its 41st session held in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The Duterte administration must ensure that environmental activists and land rights defenders are protected and not subjected to further harassments, intimidations or worse, extra-judicial killings”, said Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of anti-mining group Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM).

Garganera said that last year alone, harassment cases against anti-mining advocates have increased with cases reported in Nueva Vizcaya, Masbate, and South Cotabato. 

Garganera narrated that in October 2018, local organizations in Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu town in Nueva Vizcaya reported that pamphlets were circulated in jeepney terminals accusing some anti-mining leaders of ATM member organizations  as “NPA recruiters” or “NPA contacts”.

Feminist group LILAK-Purple Action for Indigenous Women also demanded that Duterte’s government stop its misogynist behavior and start respecting women’s rights, especially of indigenous women and women leading environmental fights. “Duterte’s remarks that put down and objectify women undermine the fact that rural and indigenous women are in the forefront of the fight for land, environment and natural resources,” says Judy A. Pasimio, coordinator of LILAK. 

“Many of them are on the different lists of “rebels” because of their active role in the community struggle. Duterte’s violent and anti-women remarks must not be tolerated especially as his words can be construed as marching orders for the military and police.”

The name-calling and red-tagging pose as threats to their safety and well-being, especially after Duterte has ordered the military to “shoot female rebels in the vagina”, Pasimio added.

The groups said that in a context of shrinking space for opposition and critical engagement with this government, it is crucial that the Duterte administration address the human rights deficit in the rural areas. 

The groups lamented that “midway into his six-year term, the promise of environmental protection and rural development has failed to be realized.  Not one mining operation found to be violating environmental and human rights laws has been closed, dirty energy from coal power plants are increasing and monoculture plantations are expanding.  These projects are displacing the lives and livelihoods of the rural poor, taking away lands and contaminating natural resources”.

The recent SONA of Pres. Duterte was long on rhetoric but re-miss on accomplishments.  The touted Boracay clean-up, Manila Bay rehabilitation and transition to renewable energy are mostly cosmetic actions that conceal failures in delivering the promises made from the electoral campaign in 2016 and repeated during the past SONAs. 

Rather than moving towards resolution of abject poverty and deep inequality, President Duterte has chosen to continue its sham war on drugs which has slaughtered thousands of the most beaten down and impoverished section of society.

These violent undertakings are nothing more than instrumentalities to institutionalize dictatorship. Security forces have been forced and encouraged to become more violent and assured protection against any form of accountability.

The absence of a social justice agenda which will address the basic needs and access to opportunities by the most impoverished and the continuation of a worse form of neo-liberal economic agenda vis-à-vis previous administrations which will deepen inequality will mean that this president will surely be at odds with all Human Rights Defenders responding to the entire range of the most basic sectors and the defense of Philippine natural resources and environment. This only means that human rights violations of the worse kind will continue to persist.

Having had persistently intimidated political opposition and institutions which have traditionally defended democracy as well as beaten the entire bureaucracy into silence, it is now only the most committed groups and individuals mustering the courage and conviction to counter the atrocities and intergenerational societal damage of this Duterte-juncture,” said iDEFEND spokesperson Ellecer Carlos

The groups said the grim reality of human rights in the Philippines cannot be ignored anymore.

 IDEFEND demands that the Duterte Administration: 

  1. Closure of 21 mines and suspension of 5 other mines that violated environmental laws or failed to comply with their contractual obligations.  Specifically, the expired mining contract of Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. (OGPI) or FTAA # 1 in Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya should not be renewed and be immediately cancelled. 

  2. Ensure that local authorities and affected-communities are adequately consulted and give their social acceptability to any development project

  3. Indigenous peoples are genuinely consulted and their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are properly secured, for any project that enters their ancestral domains

  4. Issuance of an executive order that puts a ban on open-pit mining

  5. Enactment of the green bills in the 18th Congress – Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB), Forest Resources Bill (FRB), National Land Use Act (NLUA), and the Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas Act (ACCA)

  6. Enactment of the Human Rights Defenders (HRD) bill

  7. Decisively transition towards renewable energy

  8. Stop the Kaliwa Dam Project pending review of contracts and securing a genuine FPIC

  9. Full cooperation and transparency of the Duterte government to the UNHRC in allowing UN mechanisms to conduct research and documentation without fear of harassment

For more info contact  

Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator, ATM +63 917 549 82 18 <>