MANILA — The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Wednesday said Britain-based human rights group Global Witness "may have missed [a] point in its survey" when it tagged the Philippines as the world's deadliest nation for land rights.
"The Philippine National Police takes strong exception to the labeling by Global Witness of the Philippines as a deadly nation for land rights," said PNP chief Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde in a statement.
According to Global Witness, more than 3 people in the Philippines were murdered each week last year while protecting their land from encroaching industries, a 4-fold increase in killings related to conflicts over water.
After the Philippines with 30 victims, Colombia had 24, followed by 23 in India and 20 in Brazil.
At least 164 farmers and land rights activists were killed worldwide last year, with the Philippines accounting for the most casualties for the first time since Global Witness began reporting such deaths in 2012.
However, Albayalde said the group may have failed to take into account the communist insurgency in the countryside, which it said was responsible for some land disputes resulting in homicides.
"The reality is that the activities of the local communist movement in the countryside is also a factor in this armed conflict over land rights, and many tribal leaders, community officials and government security forces have died protecting land rights against insurgents who want to place these communities under their control," Albayalde noted.
"Global Witness may have missed this point in its survey," he added.
The police chief also made the assurance that violence that stemmed from land disputes are "promptly investigated by the police with utmost priority."
On Tuesday, rights and environment advocates urged a United Nations body to include the killing of farmers in Negros island in its examination of the Philippines' human rights situation, citing 87 killings allegedly perpetrated by state forces since 2017.