From Cordillera to Caraga, indigenous environment defenders are prey to
police and military attacks

Kalikasan PNE press release

29 October 2017

Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
(Kalikasan PNE) decried the successive harassments perpetrated by
government armed forces against indigenous activists from the Cordillera
and Caraga regions campaigning against mines, dams, and other
ecologically destructive projects.

“We condemn the continuing crackdown of the fascist Duterte regime’s
military and police against our fellow environmental defenders. The
latest atrocities are the illegal arrest and detention of Banwaon Lumad
resisting mining and logging in Agusan del Sur and the harassment of
Igorot leaders in the Cordillera region,” said Leon Dulce, campaign
coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

On October 27, church lay worker Julito Rivera Otacan of the Rural
Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) was
arrested together with Alejandro Barluado, Jonas Acosta, Noli Tahudan,
Marlon Talatayod, and Joel Trasona, members of the indigenous Banwaon
Lumad organization Tagdumahan in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

Otacan, RMP-NMR’s field worker for their European Union-funded ‘Protect
and Promote Indigenous Human Rights in the Philippines’ project together
with Relief International, was involved in building the capacities of
the Banwaon Lumad communities in asserting their people’s rights,
especially in the face of mine exploration firms and the notorious
illegal logging operations hounding their ancestral domain. Prior to the
arrests, community meetings of Tagdumahan were subjected to surveillance
by state forces.

The following day on October 28, Windel Bolinget and Xavier Akien, both
indigenous Igorot who are respectively the chair and vice chair of the
Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), together with MarvinCayas and
another staff member of the Center for Development Programs in
Cordillera were repeatedly flagged and held up across four different
police checkpoints as they travelled from Quirino, Ilocos Sur back to
their office in Baguio.

This was after they held a community meeting with the Save Quirino
Movement, a local anti-mining group in Ilocos Sur opposing the Lepanto
mining corporation’s further upstream of their communities.

“Military personnel alleged they found grenades, firearms, and other
materials in the homes of Otacan and the Banwaon detainees. This falls
in the pattern of the police and military’s tactic of planting evidence
in many past cases involving environmental defenders that have been
repeatedly dismissed in court,” noted Dulce.

“The police and military are becoming more emboldened to commit
atrocities as President Rodrigo Duterte continues to encourage impunity
among his troops. It does not help that extractive and destructive
companies and projects using state forces as mercenaries are becoming
more aggressive as Duterte continues to fail walking his foul-mouthed
talk of punishing environmental criminals,” Dulce furthered.

The environmental group said Duterte’s counter insurgency program, Oplan
Kapayapaan, has demonstrated a continuity from its predecessor programs
of targeting civilians through harassments and intimidation,
vilification as supporters of communist rebels, and actual
militarization and targeted extrajudicial killings. This has especially
worsened, they said, under the declaration of Martial Law across the
entire Mindanao region.

“These military and police attack dogs must be pulled out from the
communities and prosecuted in court for their atrocities. Duterte’s
brutal security policies, especially his counter insurgency program
Oplan Kapayapaan and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, must
immediately be rescinded. We are calling on the public and the
international community to join us in condemning Duterte and demanding
accountability for his systematic repression of environmental defenders
and other marginalized communities,” ended Dulce.#

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 356 21 66 | E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net | Site:
www.kalikasan.net