Church leaders targeted in continuing attacks against environmental defenders
29 August 2017
Along the highway from Isabela to Nueva Vizcaya, spray-painted messages accusing Cagayan Archbishop Sergio Utleg alongside the National Union of People’s Lawyers, Anakpawis, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, and other progressive organizations and leaders in Northern Luzon as “supporters” and “protectors” of communist rebels were emblazoned across waiting sheds and concrete roadside barriers.
In South Cotabato province, unknown assailants killed Domingo Edo, a lay coordinator of the Archdiocese of Marbel Social Action Center, last August 20. A month prior to that in July 11, Pastor Kama Sanong of the Manobo Association Evangelical Church was illegally arrested and detained allegedly for possession firearms.
Abp. Utleg, Edo, and Sanong all have something in common: they are church people immersed in the people’s struggle to defend environment and communities from destructive projects.
“The Church’s ‘stewards of creations’ are among the staunchest allies of frontline communities resisting environmentally destructive projects of powerful politicians and corporations. They are the latest targets of harassments, killings, and other atrocious attacks by both private and state security forces who serve as attack dogs for big mines, power projects and plantations,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
Threats of large-scale mining projects were common in the abovementioned cases of the church leaders and workers. Abp. Utleg was a known opponent of the proposed mine-mouth coal power projects and the various operating magnetite mining projects in the Cagayan Valley region. Edo was part of the broad local opposition to the controversial Tampakan Mining Project in South Cotabato, while Sanong was part of the indigenous Dulangan Manobo Lumad tribe opposing DMCI’s coal mining, logging, and plantation projects in Sultan Kudarat.
“We have a heavily militarized investment defense regime of the mining industry that contributed to a whopping 75 percent or 91 out of 121 environment-related killings monitored by Kalikasan since 2001,” explained Dulce.
“On the other hand, counter insurgency and other security programs of the national government have targeted activists and civilians, with State armed forces suspected or point-blank identified to be involved in half of these cases,” Dulce furthered.
The environment group noted that while the perpetrator was still unknown in the recent case of Edo, the 11 other cases of killings they have monitored involving opponents of the Tampakan Mining Project were known to be perpetrated by military and paramilitary groups such as the Task Force KITACO.
“Military, paramilitary, and police forces are becoming emboldened by Duterte’s marching orders of brutal impunity. His order to “flatten the hills” and “bomb the Lumad schools” in an all-out war against every community they suspect as breeding grounds of insurgency is being implemented in every rural pocket of resistance to destructive mines, plantations and land grabs,” said Dulce.
“Duterte and his military cohorts should be held accountable for his bloody wars against the poor, especially such atrocious designs as the ‘Oplan Kapayapaan’ counter insurgency, ‘Oplan Tokhang/Double Barrel’, and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and possibly the entire country.  These fascist programs should immediately be revoked and Duterte and his fellow proponents of militarization and impunity must be investigated and prosecuted,” ended Dulce.#

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
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