Kalikasan PNE International Coordinator Clemente Bautista / Photo by JonB

WASHINGTON D.C., USA—The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) alongside international environmental and rights groups have raised before the United States Congress the recent wave of illegal raids and arrests in Negros and Metro Manila against land and environment activists.

“We condemn this recent surge of ‘Tokhang’-style raids and arrests against land and environmental defenders and other activists by the police and military forces. We have urged US authorities to support investigations into the ongoing human rights crisis that have made the Philippines deadliest country in the world for environmental defenders,” said Clemente Bautista, international network coordinator of Kalikasan PNE.

“We asked the US Congress to withdraw its military and police aid from the Filipino military and police until they cease their relentless human rights atrocities,” he furthered.

The environment group noted that among the more than 60 personalities in the recent arrests were Gabriela Metro Manila spokesperson Cora Agovida, a campaigner against land reclamation in Manila Bay; and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Negros spokesperson Danny Tabura and National Federation of Sugar Workers secretary-general John Milton Lozande, who are among the leaders of the land cultivation campaigns in Negros.

“Kalikasan’s office itself confronted constant surveillance and raid attempts over the past month. It is now very apparent that there is a drive by the Duterte regime to churn out fake warrants and plant fake evidence to justify the mass arrests of critics and dissenters,” said Bautista.

Kalikasan raised these demands in a series of public fora and dialogues with representatives of the US State Department, House of Representatives, and Senate since October 26 in Washington, DC, organized by international watchdog Global Witness and the World Resources Institute.

“Military, police and paramilitary forces were linked to 69% of the perpetrators of environmental defender killings under the Duterte regime. Despite this, the US has poured at least USD 193.5 million in military aid and has sold at least USD 63 million worth of arms to the Duterte regime,” Bautista explained.

The US government has in place the Leahy Laws, amendments to its Foreign Assistance Act that prohibit the US State Department and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights with impunity.