Activists urge UN body to probe Negros land defenders' killings

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 30 2019 06:03 PM

MANILA -- Rights and environment advocates urged a United Nations body on Tuesday to include the killing of farmers in Negros island in its examination of the Philippines' human rights situation. 

The UN Human Rights Council earlier this month passed a resolution seeking a report on alleged mass killings under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs, which human rights groups say has also been used against farmers and activists.

The Philippines is now the deadliest country in the world for land and environment defenders, with 87 killings allegedly perpetrated by state forces since 2017, said Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, citing a recent report by international watchdog Global Witness. 

“Nananawagan po kami kay UN Commissioner Michelle Bachelet na i-document, interviewhin ang mga biktima, witnesses dito sa mga pagpaslang and other rights violations against the environment and land rights defenders,” Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said in a press conference. 

(We are calling on UN Commissioner Michelle Bachelet to document, interview victims, witnesses in the killings and other rights violations against the environment and land rights defenders.)
Of the killings related to environmental activism, half were recorded in Mindanao, 35 percent in Luzon and 13 percent in the Visayas, said Kalikasan National Coordinator Leon Dulce. 

Among the latest fatalities were Edgardo Avelino, who was killed last week after organizing farmers in Negros Oriental province. He was accused of being a member of the communist New People's Army, which his widow denied. 

At least 164 people were murdered worldwide last year while protecting their land from encroaching industries, Global Witness reported. 

While this is lower compared to 207 killings in the previous year, Global Witness noted the increasing use of lawsuits, arrests and death threats to intimidate campaigners and stifle activism, even in developed countries.

-- With a report from Reuters