Five years ago, President Duterte won by a landslide because of his promise that change is coming. The change did come, but it was for the worse. Important factors like the safety of activists, farmers, and indigenous peoples remain the same.
As this decade comes to a close, it looks like this country remains oppressive to its farmers, IPs, and civil rights groups.
According to the regional rights advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific’s (PANAP) report, a total of 50 killings related to land disputes were reported from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30 this year. It roughly means, every week, one Filipino land defender is killed.
Based on PANAP’s report, here are the tally of land dispute killings in the top three countries: Brazil has seven cases and nine victims, Colombia has 21 cases and 27 victims, while The Philippines have 38 cases and 50 victims. This is our third straight year where the Philippines has recorded the most cases.
Most of these killings were allegedly by state forces as the government increased its counterinsurgency campaign. PANAP also pointed out the massacre of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental as one of the government’s counterinsurgency operations. The group also cited the arrest of 57 activist and community leaders of progressive organizations last Oct. 31.
“The climate of impunity created by such smear campaigns clears a fertile ground for not only killings but also legal persecution of groups supportive of peasant and workers’ causes,” said PANAP. “This rate of death toll outpaces last year’s frequency of one land defender murdered every two weeks in the Philippines.”
Just this week, the art activists from Panday Sining were freed after getting arrested without a warrant by out-of-uniform officers. Last week, the remaining Aeta communities in New Clark City were forcibly evacuated from their own land. And throughout the year, farmers from Negros Oriental remain unsafe on the lands they till.
Anxieties over one another’s safeties are part of our everyday struggle. Five years ago, we were promised that change was on the horizon. The endless killing has been going on for three years now. Today, it’s become our norm.
Photo by Rogin Losa