[Press Release] Strengthen the Justice System at the local level -Lakbay ng Taumbayan

MASBATE ISLAND — Marchers of Lakbay ng Taumbayan representing farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, labor, urban poor, women, youth, LGBTQ, and PWD gathered at Masbate City on May 1, 2019, to stress crisis in the justice system.

Lakbay ng Taumbayan marchers insist that when the mining industry is not well regulated by the government, corporations can easily trample on people’s lives and the environment.

Lakbay ng Taumbayan marchers say, in 2007, Filminera Resources Corporations (FRC) in Aroroy, Masbate began installing a pipeline for its plant’s wastewater treatment without the residents’ knowledge. Waste from the tank that was contaminated with cyanide overflowed and polluted the surrounding area. When the rain poured hard, the contaminated soil was washed into streams. It was reported that a number of goats roaming around the mining area died after consuming water from a stream nearby.

“Naaamoy ng mga residente ng Brgy. Panique yung cyanide sa hangin, habang yung mga teacher at estudyante sa school malapit sa dumpsite ng FRC ay natatakot na mabaon nang buhay kapag gumuho yung bundok ng basura. Ang dapat diyan ay panagutin ang FRC ng mismong local government kasama ng mga taong naapektuhan.”, said Anastacio “Ka Tacio” Vergil.

(Residents of Brgy. Panique could smell cyanide in the air, while teachers and students of a school near an FRC dumpsite fear that bury them alive if the mountain of waste erodes. What should be done is for the local government and the affected residents to hold FRC accountable)

The group said such violations should be punished by the local government. However, Masbate has a spate of political killings which makes the justice system ineffective not just for holding businesses accountable but even violence and corruption among political rivals.

During the time of a general election in 2010, 154 murder cases and 30 homicide cases occurred in the province. Masbate Governor Antonio Kho, known as Masbate’s “reigning political kingpin” employs violent means to silence political opponents. He was jailed in 1995 for allegedly giving the directive to murder Rep. Tito Espinosa. He is also implicated in other violent ordeals such as the death of Rep. Moises Espinosa Sr., Rep. Fausto Seachon Jr, and Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete. Kho considers himself as the “liberator” of Masbate from the Espinosas who used to be the most powerful family in the province.

The marchers reiterate that the capacities of the justice system must be reinforced to provide deterrence to political killings, human rights violations, and exploitation of the people and environment by corporations and vested interests.

#LakbayNatin
Contact Gil 09266489903

Lakbay ng Taumbayan is an 18-Day March-Caravan Campaign from Marawi to Manila (April 23-May 10) and Baguio to Manila (May 6-May 10) promoting the agenda of marginalized sectors–workers, farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, women, urban poor, youth, PWDs and LGBT–as an alternative to the administration’s agenda of federalism.

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