26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100

Tel./Fax; +63 (2) 924-8756  E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net Website: www.kalikasan.net

10 December 2013

Exact justice from the impunity towards environmental activists and criminal negligence in disasters by the Aquino government!

Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ (international name Haiyan), among the strongest extreme weather events we have ever witnessed in history, has to date caused around 6,000 deaths and displaced almost 4 million residents and affected more than 12 million people across 44 provinces in the Philippines.

Its powerful winds and storm surges caused damages to agriculture and infrastructure of at least worth P35.05 billion. It is a portent of what climate change can look like over the coming decades. These hazards are not new and should have cautioned authorities to anticipate the growing strength and frequency of these disasters.

In the face of the worsening climate crisis, and despite the passage of disaster and climate laws, the present government under Pres. Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III responded with criminal negligence in the wake of Yolanda as it did in previous disasters it has faced before it. Moreover, the Aquino government resorted to increasing human rights violations (HRVs) in addressing critics of the government’s reactive, inept and corruption-ridden disaster management regime.

Yolanda: a case of worsened risks, inept responses

BS Aquino’s preparations and response to Yolanda was a comprehensive failure that cost lives and livelihoods, exhibited in its locally inappropriate early warning systems and a dearth of disaster and climate-resilient infrastructure and facilities. The promise of sufficient prepositioned relief and aid is belied by recent news that remote communities still haven’t been reached by government aid after 3 weeks, with hunger growing apparent in the post-Yolanda aftermath. Aquino’s government ignored scientific and historical data and engaged in political finger-pointing to deflect blame away from its own failures.

Amidst the inept crisis management, BS Aquino took the opportunity of justifying the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and his other corruption-prone presidential pork barrel funds as contingency ‘disaster pork’ that is indispensable in addressing disasters. Never mind that the same unaccountable, discretionary and lump sum funds have been used time and again by the government to plunder from state coffers instead of having the funds allocated to address actual disaster damages and needs.

In BS Aquino’s three years of presidency, destructive projects that threaten our natural defences to disasters such as mangroves and forests, such as reclamation and large-scale mining projects, have persisted and even expanded. Aquino continues to promote dirty coal energy, the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases that cause global warming, with 9 coal-fired power plants producing 4,278 megawatts (Mw) currently operating and 18 more approved that will add 5,452 Mw more. Environmental destruction and pollution, along with exclusionary socio-economic policies, has greatly increased the vulnerabilities of grassroots communities to disasters.

Pablo: persisting problems and rights violations

The survivors of 2012’s Typhoon ‘Pablo’ (Bopha) have lingering housing woes almost a year after Pablo’s flash floods destroyed their homes. Pablo survivors have organized themselves into the Barug Katawhan, a climate justice mass movement that led an organized confiscation of material aid suspected to be hoarded in government warehouses early this 2013, after 84 days of receiving no aid from the government.

Since then, two of their members, councilwoman Cristina Morales Jose and farmer Pedro Tinga, have become victims of extrajudicial killings in March 4 and December 6, respectively. Tinga was killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command, who claimed he was a member of the armed revolutionary group New People’s Army (NPA).

Kim Gargar, a people’s scientist and climate justice advocate who was immersed in field research in the forests of Cateel town in Davao Oriental in support of reforestation efforts in the Pablo-affected areas, was caught in a crossfire between AFP and NPA troops and was wrongfully arrested and detained in October this year accused as a member of the NPA. Since then, the AFP has changed one fabricated story about Kim after another, and has filed charges of frustrated murder, gun ban violation and possession of illegal explosives against him.

The repression of Pablo responders appears to be consistently systematic, as earlier in April 2013, Gargar was part of the 70-member fact-finding mission looking into the murder of Cristina Morales Jose and other anomalies revolving around the Pablo aftermath that was harassed by the military. To the AFP, it seems being a dedicated advocate of claiming climate justice and addressing climate impacts for Pablo survivors is a crime.

Enough of endangering environmental defenders!

The plight of climate change advocates and refugees is but a facet of the human rights situation that environmental defenders face in the Philippines. Since 2001, a total of 73 politically-motivated killings, at least 23 cases of harassment suits, 3 cases of enforced disappearances, 7 cases of frustrated murder and 29 cases of illegal detention involving environmental advocates have been recorded by the Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED).

Is this the plight that Yolanda victims, critics and responders can expect? The appointment as Yolanda rehabilitation czar of Senator Panfilo Lacson, a notorious human rights violator who has immediately pronounced his emphasis on private interests as his rehabilitation framework, is telling enough.

Three years of persisting disaster, climate and human rights crises under BS Aquino are enough, and the Aquino administration is largely responsible and must be held accountable. The people have done its part in directly addressing impacts of disasters, raising awareness on human rights issues, and recommending and promoting alternatives and solutions. Thus we reiterate our demands to the Aquino administration:

•        Immediately release and rescind all trumped-up charges against Kim Gargar and all other political prisoners;

•        Justice for Cristina Morales Jose, Pedro Tinga and all victims of politically-motivated killings and other HRVs – including holding accountable the perpetrators of HRVs, and the dismantling of paramilitary and investment defence forces often involved in HRVs towards environmentalists, among others;

•        Justice for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, Typhoon Pablo and all other ‘climate refugees’ under the disastrous regime of Aquino – including sustained relief, livelihood recovery and just compensation for damages, and genuine rehabilitation that will not adversely affect their livelihoods;

•        Scrap the Mining Act of 1995, National Reclamation Plan, coal expansion under the Philippine Energy Plan and Electric Power Industry Reform Act,  and all other environmentally destructive and pollutive policies and programs, and audit the Climate Change Act and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act;

•        Abolish all ‘disaster pork’ funds for its role in promoting a reactive and selective relief and disaster recovery, and rechannel it towards social services, disaster risk reduction and climate-proofing;

•        Enact and implement a comprehensive and proactive disaster risk management plan that follows goals of community-based disaster risk reduction and management, climate change adaptation and climate justice.


Reference: Mr. Leon Dulce, Campaign Coordinator of Kalikasan PNE, Spokesperson of Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders0917 562 6824

National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756  Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com
Website: www.kalikasan.net