The Duterte government’s intensified “red- tagging” of human rights and environment activists has earned for the Philippines the notorious label of “the world’s deadliest country for defenders” by Global Witness, an international non-profit organization that works to protect human rights and the environment by fearlessly confronting corruption and challenging the systems that enable it.
In a 58-page report titled “Enemies of the State? – How governments and businesses silence land and environment defenders,” Global Witness said 164 land and environmental defenders were killed worldwide in 2018.
This averages out to more than three a week, according to the report which said the numbers could be higher because “many other deaths go unrecorded.” Many more were attacked or jailed.
The Philippines dislodged Brazil (which slid to number 4) from the top post with 30 environment defenders killed.
The New York Times came out with an editorial on the report, “In the Fight to Save the Planet, Its Defenders Are Being Killed.”
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the NYT editorial is “not surprising,” as it has come out with “false information and narratives on the Philippine situation under the leadership of PRRD.”
“The NYT has the reckless habit of relying mainly on false facts regarding this administration’s campaign against illegal drugs and the causes of murders occurring in the land areas of the country, peddled by the communist rebels and their supporting left-leaning organizations, as well as the political opposition,” he further said.
Global Witness said: “In the Philippines – where we documented more killings in 2018 than in any other country – state intimidation of defenders has continued into 2019. President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has ramped up its campaign of ‘red-tagging’ rights activists, including land and environmental defenders, as communist sympathizers, terrorists or supporters of a group of armed insurgents called the New People’s Army (NPA).”
A Supreme Court decision defines red-tagging as the “the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/ or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy…by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State’.” (See more: VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Why ‘red-tagging’ is dangerous).
Global Witness said on 12 October 2018, the Cagayan Valley chapter of the human rights network Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (known by its acronym KARAPATAN) received reports that leaflets had been scattered around several towns in Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, and Cagayan Provinces naming leaders and members of community-based organizations as “leaders and recruiters” of the New People’s Army communist insurgency.
The report also noted that “indigenous people in the Philippines are disproportionately affected by the scramble for land and natural resources, and the violence that comes with it.”
The risk for those who help bring to the attention of the public and the international community the attacks and other forms of violence that indigenous peoples are being subjected to is exemplified by what happened to Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, a Filipina who is the UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, who has been placed on a list of “terrorists” by the government.
Global Witness also said mining was the deadliest sector, with 43 defenders killed worldwide protesting against the destructive effects of mineral extraction on people’s land, livelihoods and the environment.
There was an escalation of killings of defenders struggling for the protection of water sources, rising from 4 in 2017 to 17 in 2018, the report said.
Read here the whole report.