By RONALYN V. OLEA
An environmental activist based in Cebu City was tailed and harassed by suspected intelligence agents on July 29 to 30.
According to Task Force Justice for Environmental Defenders, Vince Cinches, country coordinator of international climate change organization 350.org, was on his way to Dumaguete City when he noticed men tailing him. Upon reaching the Dumaguete City bus terminal, one of the men approached him and asked him where he was going, what his purpose was in Negros and added that there were already many New People’s Army (NPA) members and communists in the city.
The man continued to tail Cinches even upon reaching his host’s house in Dumaguete City.
“Intelligence assets in Dumaguete City also told me that it is not safe to go around as there are ‘communist-terrorists’ that might join and infiltrate my meeting, and asked me to just stay where I am, and to ensure that I would not leave my place, they had detailed plainclothes military personnel around the place I stayed,” Cinches said in a statement.
On July 30, an alleged intelligence asset pretending to be a medical doctor sent a text message to Cinches’ family and friends that he had a cardiac arrest and was admitted at the provincial hospital.
Cinches said the sender used the mobile number 09051150981. “I believe that he intended to create conditions that would make me disappear,” he said.
“This incident is another proof of President Aquino’s lack of sincerity in dealing with human rights violations, particularly, those committed against environmental activists,” Marjorie Pamintuan, one of the conveners of Task Force Justice for Environmental Defenders, said.
According to Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, there are already seven environmental activists killed under the Aquino administration including world-renowned botanist Leonard Co and Palawan broadcaster and anti-mining activist Dr. Gerry Ortega.
During the previous administration, two environmental activists were victims of enforced disappearance, 35 were victims of extrajudicial killings and two were victims of attempted assassinations.
Kalikasan PNE noted that the President’s recent State of the Nation Address (Sona) did not only lack a plan to address the environmental and climate change concerns of the people but was also silent on the human rights violations against environmental defenders.
The group said Aquino has only continued the “rotten environmental policies of former president Gloria Arroyo such as the Mining Act of 1995.”
“The sins of the past administration will continue to haunt President Aquino unless he stops implementing the environmentally destructive policies of the previous Arroyo regime and takes concrete action to protect not only our environment from plunder but also environmental defenders from human rights violators,” Pamintuan said.