By Alyansa Tigil Mina
All photos by Angie de Silva/Alyansa Tigil Mina
Environment and human rights defenders (EHRDs) gathered at the DENR grounds today to pay tribute to environmental heroes and martyrs. They appealed to the government agency to commit to remembering the struggle of the fallen green warriors and heed their demands concerning the environment and affected communities.
“Today, we honor the lives of environmental activists who were killed fighting for the protection of our natural resources and the welfare of communities. As we continue to remember them, we call on the DENR to protect and ensure the security of environmental activists so no killings will ever happen again,” said Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.
According to a report by the international organization Global Witness, at least 270 were killed in the Philippines between 2012 and 2021, making the country the third deadliest country in the world, and the first in Asia.
“It is unacceptable that environment and human rights defenders are being killed with impunity. These heroes have sacrificed their lives standing up against government neglect and corporate abuse. Their voices and demands should continue to be heard and acted upon, especially since the problems they confronted still persist,“ said Jhay de Jesus, National Coordinator of In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (IDefend). “We vow to continue calling for the accountability of the government for these killings and attacks on human rights defenders.”
“We are here not only to honor the environmental martyrs but also to seek justice for their untimely deaths. We also demand that the assault and harassment against environmental human rights defenders be immediately stopped,” said ATM Council of Leaders’ Malou Verano from Masbate, who has been sued by a mining company for libel because of her firm stance against destructive mining in their province.
From November 30 to December 8, various remembrances activities were conducted in different parts of the country. Garganera had earlier said that the “tributes are critical, especially during this period when the current administration is revising the nation’s history and eradicating the memory of past heroes.”
Among those honored as environmental heroes and martyrs are:
Armin Marin was an environmental activist who was shot by a security official of Pelican’s subsidiary, Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation (SPNDCC). He had been an official of the World Wildlife Fund Philippines and was the 23rd environmentalist to be murdered under the Macapagal Administration.
Boy Billanes was a persistent advocate of human rights, good governance, peace, and environmental protection. As an environmental activist, he consistently stood up against the encroachment of large-scale mining in the Philippines such as the multinational giant Xstrata-SMI; and all forms of environmental destruction.
DATU VICTOR DANYAN
Datu Victor Danyan was a chieftain, who led the Indigenous People’s organization TAMASCO, formed by the T’boli Manobo, in asserting their rights as IPs in Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato. He fought and protested against land grabbing and the corporate abuse of their land.
Gloria Capitan was one of the leaders of the Coal-Free Bataan Movement and the President of the United Citizens of Lucanin Association (Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Mamamayan ng Lucanin), a community-based organization that has been peacefully opposing the operation and expansion of coal plants and open storage facilities in the Mariveles neighborhood. She was shot dead in 2016 by two unidentified men.
Gensun Agustin was a leader of the Alliance for Buguey Community Advocates (Albucoda) and a member of the Federation of Anti-Mining Advocates in Cagayan (Famac). As a campaigner, he was very vocal in denouncing local and provincial leaders who pushed for magnetite mining on the beaches of Buguey, Cagayan. He was shot dead while on his way home on 1 March 2010.
DOC. GERRY ORTEGA
Doc. Gerry Ortega was a well-known pro-environment advocate and has worked with various environmental groups and associations on the environment and community-based projects. He gained local popularity as a wildlife veterinarian and became known as “Doc Gerry”. In later years, Ortega was involved in vigilant advocacy campaigns, participating in anti-mining protests in Palawan.
Macli-ing Challiyong Dulag was elected barrio captain of Bugnay thrice and became a recognized elder, or pangat, among the Butbut and the Kalingas. He and the papangat (the council of elders) would handle the internal affairs of their people and were expected to maintain the social and cosmic order of their land, including the enforcement of peace pacts and settling of conflicts. He was one of the leaders of the opposition to the Chico River Dam Project during the Marcos years.