Karapatan to UN SR on Climate Change and Human Rights: Address “dangerous situation” of envi defenders, communities in PH

Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

November 7, 2023

Karapatan to UN SR on Climate Change and Human Rights: Address “dangerous situation” of envi defenders, communities in PH

MANILA — As surfaced environmental defenders Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro face the perjury charges filed against them by their abductors, rights alliance Karapatan called on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights to “address the dangerous situation of environmental human rights defenders and communities in the Philippines.”

“Defenders of the planet and rights and their communities should not be subjected to political persecution, but in the Philippines, environmental defenders are killed or abducted, and they face trumped up charges like Jhed and Jonila. We hope UN SR on Climate Change and Human Rights Mr. Ian Fry will look into these issues and challenges that land and environmental human rights defenders face,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan said that “instead of addressing the climate crisis in the country, the Marcos Jr. administration weaponizes the situation under the pretext of counterinsurgency in its National Security Policy for 2023 to 2028, wherein the destructive whole of nation approach is continuously employed.”

The UN SR on Climate Change and Human Rights comes to the Philippines on official country visit on November 6-15, 2023 at the same time that the trumped up charge of perjury against Tamano and Castro, filed by the commanding officer of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, Ronnel dela Cruz, is set for preliminary investigation today at the Department of Justice.

“The UN SR’s visit should be an opportune time to answer the distress call by environmental defenders in the Philippines, who need and deserve protection. Marcos Jr. makes it look like he is deeply concerned about climate change, while there is a clear government policy to crack down on environmental and other human rights defenders who resist destructive projects like reclamation, large dams, and mining,” Palabay said.

A protest action was held at the DOJ where Karapatan and other rights defenders and environmental activists called to stop the judicial harassment and drop the charges against Tamano and Castro, who will submit their counter-affidavits.

Palabay cited the case of Daisy Macapanpan who, similar to Tamano and Castro, is facing trumped up cases. “These are alarming examples of political persecution of environmental defenders in the country,” she said.

Macapanpan continues to face the rebellion case against her, which was used to serve an arrest warrant against her on June 11, 2022. She was arrested several hours after she spoke at a local community meeting to oppose the Ahunan Pumped Storage Hydropower Project in Pakil, Laguna that will severely affect communities, livelihoods, and the immediate environment of settlers in the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre, Southern Luzon. She was released on bail.

Environmental defenders and indigenous people’s leaders were also the subject of terrorist-labeling by the government, such as the case of six Cordillera activists who were baselessly and arbitrarily designated as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), including Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget and CPA leaders Jennifer Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes and Steve Tauli as “terrorist individuals” in June 2023. Said individuals also faced a string of trumped up charges that were subsequently dismissed.

Awingan and Abellon-Alikes also suffered from imprisonment after being arrested on the basis of the trumped up charges against them. Both have been released, after posting bail. Tauli, on the other hand, was abducted on August 20, 2022 and subjected to interrogation, until he was surfaced and found the next day.

“These attacks against environmental defenders are all aimed at limiting their movement in pursuit of their advocacies. These are all obstacles in obtaining justice and accountability, on top of the already dire situation of the Philippine environment,” Palabay said. #