“Is this how Aquino wants to celebrate Human Rights Day, with more impunity towards our beleaguered environment defenders?”– Fr. Oliver Castor, spokesperson of Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – One farmer and two environmental advocates have been killed in two separate incidents on December 7.
Rolando Quijano, a farmer and active member of Alliance of Farmers Union in Zamboanga Del Sur (AFUZS) was shot to death at around 12:00 noon last Friday at purok 4, Ocapan village, San Miguel town in the province of Zamboanga Del Sur by suspected elements of the 53rd Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army, according to initial data gathered by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).
Antonio Flores, KMP spokesman, said: “Quijano’s relatives and colleagues believe his death was due to his active opposition to large-scale mining and illegal logging in Zamboanga Del Sur.” KMP said 53rd IBPA has built a military detachment inside the village.
On the same day at around 6 p.m., two anti-mining advocates– Cheryl Ananayo, a member of Didipio Earthsavers’ Multipurpose Association (Desama), and her cousin-in-law Randy Nabayay — were also killed by unidentified assailants in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya.
According to initial data gathered by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (PNE), Ananayo was carrying her three-month-old baby and her four year-old child when the assassins attacked. Both children are unharmed.
Desama is a people’s organization opposed to the ongoing implementation of the 17,626-hectare Didipio gold-copper project in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya owned by Australian large-scale miner OceanaGold Corporation. The Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of Oceana Gold in Didipio commenced only this November.
“Oceana Gold’s crimes to the environment and the people started way before its commencement this last November, and it continues to grow,” Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE. “As early as during its mine development stage, it has already caused massive siltation that led to the disappearance of aquatic species in some affected rivers. Its campaign of attrition towards the indigenous people’s communities included threats of bulldozing homes, actual demolition operations, and letting loose gunfire upon civilians. We can think of no other person or institution with a track record and motive.”
“The climate of impunity remains and it’s a blood-stained Human Rights Day for the Aquino administration,” Flores said.
“It seems that the mining regime perpetrated by the Aquino government is not content with the death toll of environmental activists this year, now pegged at 15 cases in 2012 alone. Is this how Aquino wants to celebrate Human Rights Day, with more impunity towards our beleaguered environment defenders?” said Fr. Oliver Castor, spokesperson of Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders (TF-JED).
“We cannot continue turning a blind eye on the killings of environmental advocates. We have seen how destructive large-scale logging and mining activities have resulted in the intensified disaster impacts of hazards such as the most recent Typhoon Pablo that hit Mindanao. If we allow this impunity towards the likes of Ananayo to continue, who will be left to ensure the integrity of the environment that nurtures and protects us?” Bautista said.
Meanwhile, KMP’s Flores noted that Quijano’s death occurred while 74 farmers and Lumad from Mindanao are here in Manila for Manilakbayan (Journey to Manila) to protest the unabated killings linked to the large-scale mining in the South.”
Aida Seiesa, secretary general of KMP-Southern Mindanao, expressed outrage over the killing of Quijano.
“While we are here calling on government agencies to stop the killings in Mindanao, state security forces killed one of our colleagues,” Seiesa said in Filipino in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
She said she and Quijano attended a Congressional inquiry on the spate of extrajudicial killings held in Davao City a few months ago. “We came face to face with the military higher-ups,” she said.
The KMP attributed the killing of Quijano as part of the Aquino administration’s counter-insurgency operation plan Bayanihan.
“Oplan Bayanihan enjoy the blessings of the haciendero president because it conceals the escalating terror and human rights abuses perpetrated by the military against farmers with the very same anti-peasant peace and development projects by the government,” Flores said.
According to the yearend report of Karapatan, of the 129 victims of extrajudicial killings since July 2010 to October this year, 71 were peasants and 25 were indigenous peoples.
“Aquino’s human rights record is tainted by the blood of the Filipino peasantry,” Flores said. “We hold Aquino as commander-in-chief of the armed forces responsible for the death of Quijano and all other farmers killed under his administration.”