18 October 2016
DENR Sec. Lopez praised for calling for justice over death of Lumad anti-mining activist
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez surprised the family and comrades of anti-mining Lumad leader Jimmy Saypan with a visit at his wake. Lopez echoed the calls for justice by indigenous and environment groups. Photo credit to Bai Ali Indayla
It was a kind and heart-felt gesture that environmental activists appreciated and applauded when Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez visited the wake of Lumad farmer-activist Jimmy Saypan today and said, “Jimmy’s death will not be in vain, there must be justice.”
“We deeply appreciate Sec. Lopez’s solidarity with the family and comrades of Lumad farmer-leader Jimmy Saypan and her cry for immediate justice. Her show of compassion during these trying times is a source of comfort for us who vow to carry on the work of Ka Jimmy. We hope to work with Sec. Lopez in investigating the killing of Ka Jimmy and the general climate of impunity against indigenous and environmental defenders like him,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE).
Saypan, the secretary general of Compostela Farmers Association (CFA), has long been harassed and vilified by pro-mining groups and the Philippine Army for his organization’s opposition to the mining exploration of Agusan Petroleum and Minerals (Agpet), which covers 12,414 hectares in the province.
The visit of Sec. Lopez came on the heels of a dialogue between environment and indigenous people’s organizations who are part of the ongoing Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan (Caravan of National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace), a 3,000 convergence of indigenous people, Moro people, and other national minority groups from Northern Luzon to the far south of Mindanao to protest the militarization and plunder of their communities.
There are now seven cases of environment-related killings under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the last two of which occurred in Compostela Valley province. At least 101 cases of politically-motivated killings have been recorded by Kalikasan since 2001.
“The long-standing trend that continues to date is that majority of the killings is suspectedly perpetrated by state military or paramilitary forces. We hope DENR can lead in forming a task force that will investigate both the suspects of environment-related killings and the big businesses that either have direct links with or stand to benefit from the militarization,” said Dulce.
A 1,000-strong contingent of the Lakbayan, which attempted to hold a picket protest earlier today outside the Department of National Defense to demand accountability of military forces allegedly involved in the killings of indigenous people, were violently dispersed with water cannons by the military.
“The dispersal of a peaceful protest outside the military’s national headquarters belies their claim of non-involvement in the killings of environmental defenders. If they claim to respect the people’s rights, they should immediately stop the militarization of communities opposing destructive big businesses and face an independent investigation,” ended Dulce.#