Study: Drug war, military action target environmental activists
MANILA, Philippines – It appears that the administration’s war against illegal drugs is one weapon being used against environmental activists, according to “Defending the Philippines,” a report on a study initiated by Global Witness and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
The report, which was released on Tuesday, said the government’s bloody operations — a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte to rid society of illegal drugs — had emboldened state forces to use violence against perceived enemies.
“It’s not only Duterte’s failure to implement his campaign promises that has left communities and defenders at ever greater risk,” the report said. “The President’s brutal ‘war on drugs’ has fostered a culture of impunity and fear, emboldening the politically and economically powerful to use violence and hitmen against those they see as an obstacle or a threat.”
“These [victims] are not only pushers and addicts, or even the urban poor or political opposition. These deaths include people calling out corruption or refusing to allow elites to profit at the expense of their community rights,” the report added.
The report was released days after Global Witness said that the Philippines remained as the most dangerous country for land and environmental activists, with 113 defenders dead since the President assumed office.
According to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report in December 2016, some of the activists killed — suspected to be members of communist rebel groups — were targeted using the campaign against illegal drugs as a pretest for the killings.
The list includes Joselito “Anoy” Pasaporte, 32 who was killed in Compostela Valley, and 18 other activists from various Lumad tribes in Mindanao who were allegedly slain police, military, and paramilitary forces.
Speaking of the military, the groups also accused the President of encouraging various elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prioritize the protection of business interests over the people’s welfare.
“Duterte’s government has not only continued to allow the army to protect private interests but, in implementing martial law, has emboldened them to use force to silence environmental and indigenous activism,” the groups insisted.
The President has maintained close ties with the police and military, drawing the ire of critics who claim that he is forming military junta in his Cabinet.
The President, however, has made it clear that military officials can instill discipline among their ranks, and can help in implementing his anti-corruption agenda.
According to leftist groups, this relationship has paved the way for a culture of impunity, with several unresolved cases targeting farmers — especially in Negros Oriental, where scores of activists have been killed, including an incident in Sagay where nine farmers enduring “tiempo muerto,” or dead season for sugarcane farming, were shot dead.
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