“Justice is so elusive in the Philippines.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) condemned the gruesome killing this week of a French conservationist and his family in the island of Palawan.
On Jan. 25, French national Jean Marc Messina, 54, his wife Jewelyn Venturillo, 25, and their four year-old son Guiliano Steffal Venturillo were found dead with gunshot wounds to the head inside their vehicle along a road in Narra, Palawan.
Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista lamented how the number of victims increases, as the perpetrators remain unpunished. Bautista cited the 2014 study by international NGO Global Witness, which listed the Philippines among the most dangerous places in the world for environmental activists.
“Jean Marc is a known environmental advocate doing voluntary work in Palawan. He was very active in reef conservation in the municipality of Taytay. If he was murdered because of his environmental work, Jean Marc would be the fifth environmentalist killed in Palawan since 2005,” said Bautista.
Last week, on Jan. 24, groups paid tribute to prominent broadcaster and environment advocate Dr. Gerry Ortega, who was killed in 2011. Former Palawan local government officials, ex-Governor Joel and ex-Coron Mayor Mario Reyes had been charged and detained for the murder.
The other victims in Palawan were: indigenous people’s leader Abelino Sungit, who was shot dead in February 2005, his brother Rabenio, who was killed in September 2011, and Pastor Raul Domingo, who was killed in August 2005.
“Justice is so elusive in the Philippines,” Bautista said.
Bautista said Messina was also the third foreign environmental advocate killed in the Philippines under President Aquino. Italian missionary Fr. Faustino ‘Pops’ Tenorio was shot dead in October 2011 in North Cotabato, while Dutch Willem Geertman was shot dead in Pampanga in July 2012.
“In Palawan, people and organizations opposing ecologically destructive projects such as large-scale mining, palm-oil plantations, coal power plants, illegal logging, and other forms of ‘development aggression’ are being harassed and threatened with harm,” said Bautista.
Bautista was also threatened, when he was subjected to surveillance by suspected government intelligence agents last year.
“Plunderers continue to pillage our resources and despoil our environment. Our deeds in conserving and protecting our ecosystems and natural resources are our responsibilities to our beloved Philippines and its future generation. We were brave to commit to this cause—we must not, and we will not be cowed,” Bautista said.