Philippine targeted killings spark growing global concern

US Congress has condemned ‘serious human rights abuses’ taking place
across the country

Joe Torres, Manila

31 July 2019

Philippines – International human right groups have expressed growing
concern over reports of assassinations in the Philippines, especially of
activists, in recent months.

Several members of the U.S. Congress have already spoken out against
what they described as “serious human rights abuses” in the country.

Representative Ann Wagner, head of the U.S. Congressional Caucus on
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has noted the attacks on
tribal schools and tribal leaders especially in Mindanao.

Earlier this year, five U.S. senators also called upon the Philippine
government to drop charges against incarcerated Philippine opposition
senator Leila de Lima.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs raised
the issue of alleged human rights abuses in the Philippines during a
public hearing in Washington on July 25.

Wagner’s statement came as international watchdog Global Witness branded
the Philippines as the “deadliest country in the world” for land and
environmental defenders.

In its annual report, the group noted that 30 activists were killed in
2018 alone, while 48 were killed the year before.

The report also raised alarm over what it described as the
“criminalization” of civil cases to stifle environmental activism and
the defense of land rights.

Among the countries with the highest overall number of recorded deaths
were the Philippines (30), followed by Colombia (24), India (23) and
Brazil (20).

Philippine human rights group Karapatan has urged the United Nations
Human Rights Council to immediately conduct an investigation into the
killings of land rights and environmental activists.

“We are calling on the U.N. High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to take
a look at the killings,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan’s

Palabay said the U.N. should “document and interview” victims and
witnesses to the “unceasing rights violations” against rights defenders
and poor communities.

She also challenged the Philippine government “to invite and allow”
independent experts to examine alleged state-sponsored killings.

“These deaths are not just numbers. There are families that are the best
source of information about these killings,” said Palabay.

The pro-environment group, Kalikasan People’s Network for the
Environment, reported that at least 104 environmental defenders were
killed between Duterte coming to power in 2016 to December 2018.

“The killings will not end if the government continues to protect the
interest of capitalists who profit from mining, vast monoculture
plantations, and aggressive agribusiness expansions,” said Leon Dulce,
the network’s national coordinator.

A “national solidarity mission” conducted in Nueva Vizcaya province last
week found that tribal leaders protesting against mining operations in
the area have been tagged as rebels.

Residents affected by mining operations set up a checkpoint in the town
of Kasibu in June to prevent the Australian mining firm OceanaGold from

The company’s operating license expired last month.

Mark Saludes and Leonel Abasola contributed to this report