By LEON DULCE
As I write this, I have received a barrage of hate, accusations of libel, and a threat of being “sampled by the Anti-Terror Bill” from the ‘DDS’ (Duterte Die-hard Supporter) troll armies on Facebook.
This was after I made ripostes against their disinformation in the Facebook comments section of global climate activist Greta Thunberg. She had just posted about the global environmental defenders petition we initiated with her and other environment and climate leaders against what is now called the ‘Terror Law.’
The DDS played out a familiar script straight out of their troll playbook. They first accused Greta of being a meddling foreigner who should stay out of the Philippines’ affairs.
They then claimed that she is either a puppet of ‘yellow’ liberals or communist fronts, or is a yellow liberal or communist herself. Incredibly, but not surprisingly, some have begun accusing Greta of being a paid hack.
After I responded to them with a news article citing our report that at least 19,498 Filipino environmental defenders suffered human rights abuses under the first three years of the Duterte administration, the standard reply was that this is mere fake news.
Just like that, the DDS Playbook has fully demonstrated what we are fearing from the draconian provisions of the ‘Terror Law’ all along.
The law, which threatens anyone that fits the overbroad definition of ‘terrorist’ with detention up to 24 days without charges and warrants, criminalizes freedom of expression, and threatens our right to privacy, becomes a very real weapon that can transform the vitriol against environmental activists into real vendetta.
The dangers have always been real. This aggressive troll offensive is trying to obscure the fact that the Philippines has been ranked the deadliest country in the world for land and environmental defenders just last year in an incisive report by international investigative group Global Witness.
It is a desperate attempt to hide the stark realities we environmental defenders experience where indigenous Tuwali barricaders enforcing a mine suspension order in Nueva Vizcaya were violently dispersed by police.
It is a reality where a lawyer litigating a massacre of farmers involved in a land struggle in Negros is easily assassinated; where even the government’s own environment officials in the last ecological frontier of Palawan were held at gunpoint and arrested by a city police director for investigating destructive activities he is involved in.
As I write this, however, despite all attempts to scare away the international community, more than 20,000 signatures and 100 organizations have already signed on our global petition.
The planetary crises we face, from pandemic to climate emergency to the sixth mass extinction, are far too existential for environmental and climate protectors to back away from authoritarianism that wants business as usual, at all costs.
Leon Dulce is the national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE). He is an alumnus of the International Service for Human Rights’ Human Rights Defenders Advocacy Program in 2018 and a resource person in the Commission on Human Rights National Inquiry on Human Rights Defenders in 2019. He can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org.