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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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Growing deadlier?

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International advocacy group Global Witness and British daily The Guardian declared the Philippines the second deadliest country for land and environmental defenders in the world and the deadliest in Asia last year.

Citing 41 land and environment-related killings recorded in 2017, the tag was highlighted with a “broader crackdown by the country's president, Rodrigo Duterte, as the key factor” in the sharp spike in murders of defenders opposing mainly big mining and plantation interests.

The Philippines worsened from third in 2016 to second deadliest country in the world as “we faced the bloodiest year ever for environmental defenders.”

The tag cited the case of indigenous lumad chieftain Victor Danyan and seven other tribe members reportedly killed by a composite team of Philippine Army troopers from the 27 th and 33 rd Infantry Battalions last December 3. The eight T'boli-Dulangan lumad, which included Danyan's sons Victor Jr. and Artemio, were reportedly tending to agricultural lands they had occupied in defiance of the alleged land grabs of the DMCI company's large-scale coffee plantation and a proposed 2,000 hectare coal mine, both located within their claimed ancestral lands.

The military claimed Danyan and his fellow lumad were New People's Army rebels. Leon Dulce, deputy national coordinator of the Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, one of the local partner organizations of Global Witness, say the incident was “a massacre of civilians” that has been docketed by the Commission on Human Rights in Region 12 as a martial law-related case.

The case is but one of the many that make up the 41 land and environment-related killings for 2017 that made the Philippines the 2 nd deadliest in the world in that category.

“Until communities are genuinely included in decisions around the use of their land and natural resources, those who speak out will continue to face harassment, imprisonment and the threat of murder,” Global Witness senior campaigner Ben Leather said.

A country that is not only engaged in a vicious and bloody drug war but also in an all out war against the NPA needs to do better in protecting its people from the death and violence that has permeated our society in recent years, if such rankings are to be believed. Aside from preventing the outright murder of Filipinos by state forces over the flimsiest of reasons, our government has to do more to prosecute the trigger-happy vigilante groups that contribute to the impression that life is especially cheap in the Philippines. *


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