Press Release
August 2, 2019

UN probe should include killings of land, environmental activists - De Lima

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has pressed the United Nations (UN) experts to probe the unprecedented killings of land and environmental activists in the Philippines, thus making it the deadliest country in the world for land rights defenders.

De Lima said the recent rash of killings of land and environmental activists adds up to the urgency to open an independent investigation due to the continued injustices and government neglect being experienced under the present administration.

"The growing number of unresolved deaths in the country involving land and environmental activists, who died fighting for their own rights and legitimate interests, is a very serious matter that warrants the United Nation's utmost attention," she said.

"I urge the United Nations experts to help address this mass murder being carried out in the country and give the victims the justice they very well deserve by seeing and investigating for themselves the situation of land and environmental activists here," she added.

A recent report by London-based international watchdog Global Witness revealed that the Philippines is now the deadliest country in the world for land and environment defenders.

Of the 164 farmers and land rights activists reportedly killed worldwide in 2018, the report showed that the Philippines accounted for 30 casualties.

"This trend only looks set to worsen as strongmen politicians around the world are stripping away environmental and human rights protections to promote business at any cost," Alice Harrison, a campaigner at Global Witness, reportedly said.

In Negros province alone, human rights group Karapatan registered at least 41 people who were killed, including civilians, rights defenders, activists, and farmers in the period of November 2018 to July 28, 2019.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights defenders, said the continued killings of local farmers and land defenders only highlights the Duterte administration's failure to discharge its mandate of maintaining peace and order, and holding perpetrators accountable.

"Walang tigil na patayan at karahasan pero nakakabahala na walang sapat na aksyon tayong nakikita mula sa gobyerno. Habang ang mga pamilyang nawalan ng mahal sa buhay ay nagdurusa at patuloy na namumuhay sa takot at pangamba, ang mga pasimuno nitong malawakang patayan ay malaya at patuloy na naghahasik ng kasamaan," she lamented.

De Lima has welcomed a resolution by the UN Human Rights Council which seeks a comprehensive report on the human rights abuses in the country, which the Global Witness believed to have also victimized farmers and land rights activists in the country.

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said an independent fact-finding investigation of the human rights abuses in the country is not only necessary but also urgent amid the Duterte government's apparent lack of interest in conducting a serious probe on the unabated killings under its watch.

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