News and features

Acquittal of Palparan, CAFGUs Raises Alarming Issues for Environmental Defenders


October 7, 2023

Acquittal of Palparan, CAFGUs Raises Alarming Issues for Environmental Defenders

The Environmental Defenders Congress is deeply disturbed by the recent acquittal of retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and the CAFGU members who were involved in the abduction (in Bulacan on February 14, 2006) and subsequent torture of the two Manalo brothers. This acquittal raises serious issues, including impunity, threats to environmental and human rights defenders, the urgent need for justice, and heightened risks for those protecting the environment.

The acquittal underscores the worrying trend of powerful Filipinos, accused of severe human rights violations, yet being able to evade accountability — thereby perpetuating a culture of impunity that endangers environmental defenders.

We strongly advocate for accountability in human rights abuse cases. We recognize that farmers are environmental defenders due to their role in safeguarding vital land ecosystems. We are troubled by the court’s disregard of the powerful testimonies of the two land defenders who are survivors of enforced disappearance, and note that this acquittal threatens the rights of environmental defenders.

The acquittal also erodes our faith in a justice system that has repeatedly failed land and environmental defenders. Laws are frequently weaponized against Filipinos and communities opposing environmental destruction, including the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Republic Act 11479).

As the lawyers of the Manalo brothers plan to appeal the acquittal, we call on the courts to view their case not only as a harrowing personal experience of torture by state agents but as a cautionary tale for all Filipinos who can be targeted by state forces for their environmental defense.

We demand a safer environment for environmental activists. We urge the speedy passage of the Human Rights Defenders Bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives Human Rights Committee in February (2023).

We urge every conscientious Filipino to take a stand against the prevailing culture of impunity. Join us to stand in solidarity with the Filipino environmental defenders who work tirelessly to ensure that the bountiful blessings of our natural resources are shared by Filipino generations to come. ###