Human rights defenders warn against a brewing dictatorship.
TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol - Outraged environment and human rights advocates marched in grief Saturday demanding justice for “Atty Mia.”
Atty. Mia is Manuelita “Mia” Mascarinas-Green, 49,who was shot to death in front of her children while driving last Feb. 15 by motorcycle-riding assassins in sitio Lanao, barangay Dao of this city.
Bringing flowers, wearing black or white, grieving colleagues, friends, family members, cultural and environmental advocates displayed streamers calling for “Justice for Atty. Mia” and offered flowers and prayers in a Mass held beside a cross that marked the scene of the crime.
The Integrated Bar Philippines Cebu Chapter declared February 17 a “Day of Mourning for the Environment Lawyer.”
Bohol cultural director Lutgardo Labad expressed his anger in social media: “While the murder of more than 7,000 other people (for various reasons) over the last 7 months does anger me, nothing quite fuels the fire like something not just close to home but is, in fact, home. This culture of violence--this reliance on the perceived gifts of impunity--must end.
“We, as a nation, have revelled in it--basked in it--for too long and we seriously need to stop. And shame on those who suggest that the same fate must befall the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Have you not learned that an eye for an eye would only make the whole world blind?”
Mascarinas-Green, who is married to a British marine biologist Stuart Green, had just fetched her three daughters, ages nine and two (twins) when two riding in tandem gun men blocked her way and fired at her. She was brought to the Holy Name University Hospital where she died.
She will be buried on Feb. 21.
Investigators led by City Police Chief Nicomedes Olaiva told reporters that the fatal shooting of Mascarinas-Green appeared to have been pre-meditated, but discounted any connection to cases of illegal drugs as the victim was known to be an environment and women’s rights advocate with “marginal’ clients.
Bohol Governor Edgar M. Chatto visited the wake of the slain lawyer immediately and promised to mobilize government agencies to work hard to provide speedy justice for the victim. He denied the presence of hired killers in the tourist province.
City Police Chief Nicomedes Olaivar Jr. contended that the slain lawyer was caught in “the conflict between her client and a resort owner,” adding that Mascarinas-Green and her client were reportedly on the verge of winning the unnamed case.
They (suspected masterminds) noted that their case had been on the verge of losing, so they planned the ambush/killing,” Olaivar said in Cebuano.
Two suspects, Romarico T. Benigian and Lloyd Lacer Gonzaga, have been identified by policemen from a CCTV footage at the Hall of Justice when they earlier inquired about the schedule of hearing of Mascarinas-Green.
Policemen conducted a raid at Alona Embrace Hotel in Panglao Island where the suspected gunmen were seen but they eluded arrest. The same raid, however, yielded several firearms and illegal drugs in one of the rooms.
Mascarinas-Green family was reported to have offered P500,000 for anyone who could help authorities find Benigian and Gonzaga.
Lawyer Julius Gregory Delgado lamented the loss of Mascarinas-Green who has won many cases he had referred to her.
Judge Roy Barbarona told Radio DYTR listeners that he considers the death of Mascarinas-Green “a great loss, not only to Bohol, but also for the country since she epitomized what he called “public interest lawyering” and served those “marginalized” in society.
Yeb Saño, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, in a statement said: "We condemn in the strongest terms the brutal assassination in Tagbilaran, Bohol, last February 15, of Atty. Mia Manuelita Cumba Mascariñas-Green, a staunch environmental lawyer and defender of women's and children's rights. Greenpeace calls on the authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice.”
"Those who cause environmental destruction are resorting to savage measures and deplorable acts to stop communities and people who are standing up to protect our imperiled environment and the very ecosystems that support the lives and livelihoods of our people.”
He noted that since 2010, the number of environmental defenders who have been killed is nearing a hundred. Thirty-three were killed in 2015 alone. We cannot allow this to go on!"
"It is our duty as Filipinos to fight against this culture of impunity. We must stand up against injustice, savagery, and the use of violence to silence those who are working to make this world a better place… Let our grief and our outrage at such horrifying acts be heard. Let our actions and people's movements spur our society towards a green and peaceful future. We demand justice for Mia."
Her death brings to 112 the number of environmental campaigners murdered in the Philippines over the past 15 years, according to Filipino environment monitor Kalikasan.
They include 12 who were killed under the seven-month old Duterte presidency, Kalikasan said.
An Agence France Presse report cited the environmental monitor Global Witness that separately lists “88 killings of environmental activists and workers in the Philippines between 2010 and 2015. The attacks spiked with 33 dead in 2015, ranking the Philippines as the second most dangerous country in the world for environmental campaigners behind Brazil.”
"Most of these cases remain unresolved as the government continues to ignore the threat against environmental defenders," Clemente Bautista, its national coordinator told AFP.
"What this means is that the perpetrators are emboldened to do it again and again because no one ever gets caught."