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Green groups sound alarm over latest disappearance of Indigenous rights advocate



4 October 2023

Green groups sound alarm over latest disappearance of Indigenous rights advocates

Environmental groups expressed “grave concern” over the recent disappearance of Indigenous rights advocates Job David, Peter Del Monte Jr., and Alia Encela in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro, who were reportedly abducted by the 4th Infantry Battalion of the 203rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last September 19.

“Under the Marcos Jr. administration, we are witnessing an alarming trend of disappearances and abductions against our fellow advocates,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE). “As Indigenous peoples across the country serve as stewards of the environment, these attacks by state forces against Indigenous peoples and advocates are also attacks against our environment.”

According to Kalikasan PNE, the reported abduction marks the ninth documented incident targeting land, environmental, and Indigenous rights advocates under the Marcos Jr. administration, increasing the tally to a total of 17 individuals abducted so far. All of these incidents have been linked to state forces.

Last April, Arnulfo Aumentado and Mary Joyce Lizada, two Indigenous rights advocates from Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK) were also abducted in Oriental Mindoro before being brought to a military camp in Rizal. Despite their position as staff members of BALATIK, the AFP claimed that they were New People’s Army rebels. As of writing, they are still being detained by the military.

Earlier in September, anti-reclamation advocates Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were abducted in Orion, Bataan. According to their testimony, they were held in a military camp for days before being able to speak out on their situation and ultimately secure their freedom, with the help of other civil society groups.

“The testimonies of Jonila and Jhed make it clear that these abductions are a key facet of state efforts to silence environmental advocates, for the benefit of the large corporations and institutions raking in profits off of ecological destruction,” said Bonifacio.

In a recent report, international rights group Global Witness ranked the Philippines as the worst country in Asia for land and environmental defenders in 2022, with 11 documented killings.

“We urge the Marcos Jr. administration to respond to this series of attacks against our environmental stewards, and call for policies to be put in place so that institutions can be held accountable,” said Dr. Jean Lindo of the Environmental Defenders Congress. “Under a leader who calls himself a climate and environmental advocate, there can be no space for these crimes against human dignity.” #

Jon Bonifacio / National Coordinator, Kalikasan PNE / 0939 913 6943