For most of us, government ‘lockdowns’ are an extraordinary reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. But for land and environmental defenders already facing threats, fear is rife that the crisis could be manipulated to put them at even greater risk. Six months on from the publication of ‘Defending the Philippines’, we take a look at what has changed for defenders in the country – and what threats remain.
“Shoot them dead” is the order that President Rodrigo Duterte delivered recently to Filipino law enforcement and the military regarding their response to anyone found to be breaking the COVID-quarantine.
This is not the first time that Filipinos have heard the government’s aggressive rhetoric and feared the consequences. Last year, our report showed how officials branded protesting communities as “terrorists”, activist grandmothers as “economic saboteurs” and environmentalists as “narcos”. The criminalization of land and environmental defenders is part of a long list of tactics, used by governments and companies to deter activism.
Not only that, but our investigation also showed how household brands such as Del Monte Philippines and Dole Philippines, and international investors like the International Finance Corporation (IFC), failed in their due-diligence – backing projects opposed by local communities and connected to the intimidation or murder of land and environmental defenders.
Despite President Duterte’s promises to tackle corruption, combat environmental harm, and protect indigenous peoples, it is ordinary Filipinos who are ‘Defending the Philippines’, protecting their land, health, and livelihoods from corporate greed and vested interests.
But what is being done to support them?
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