LEGAZPI CITY (22-Jan-2013) – Environmental groups rebuke General Emmanuel Bautista, the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for falsely presenting the AFP as green warriors and masking the military’s real character as protectors of environmental criminals and perpetrators of human rights violations.
“While there may be honorable people in the military who have the intention of serving the country and saving people, the AFP as an institution follows a mandate and framework that is anti-people and anti-environment,” cries Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
General Bautista is credited as the architect of Oplan Bayanihan, which permitted the deployment of the Investment Defense Force (IDF) of the AFP as well as other paramilitary groups to mining tenements. The IDF are commissioned to protect the interests of mining companies and viciously crack down on all opposition towards large-scale mines and commercial logging operations.
“The Philippine Army became notorious perpetrators of human rights during the leadership of Gen. Bautista as its Commander in Chief. Kalikasan monitored that Philippine Army forces were suspected perpetrators in at least 16 cases of extrajudicial killings of environmental activists,” said Father Oliver Castor, Spokeperson of Task Force Justice for Environment Defenders.
The group added that the military is responsible for the massacre of a B’laan family in Brgy. Kimlawis, Kiblawan, Davao del Norte on October 2012. Elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion of Philippine Army reportedly strafed the house of anti-mining rebel and Lumad leader Daguil Capion, killing his wife Jovy and their two minor children.
The Capion massacre is the 59th case of extrajudicial killing recorded by Kalikasan. To date, none of the 64 killings of environmental advocates since 2001 have been resolved or brought to justice.
The group also said that the military has enjoyed impunity for its abuses, citing the case of the country’s top botanist Leonard Co. Until now, members of the 19th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army who killed Co and his two companions in Kananga, Leyte on November 2010 have not been charged with criminal liability and remain unpunished.
“The alarming number of attacks against environmental activists and this culture of impunity reveal that the military are opposite of what they profess. By acting as direct assailants, protectors or mere abettors of human rights violators, AFP has undermined environmentalism in the country,” says Bautista.
According to the group, the killings of environmentalists result from the policies and liberalization program of the current government such as the Mining Act of 1995 that allows the plunder of our natural resources.