We, campaigners and development workers of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and the Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines, recently confirmed an attempt by the Philippine National Police to raid our shared headquarters in Quezon City last Friday, October 4.
A reliable source, whose identity we will withhold for safety reasons, revealed that a contingent of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) attempted to raid our offices for allegedly harboring indigenous Lumad children and educating them to become activists.
The raid was called off because local officials discouraged the NCRPO operatives in the absence of a search warrant, having no sufficient actionable information and a Tokhang-like operati will surely backfire on them.
For the record, we have indeed opened our office space as a temporary sanctuary for Lumad leaders and students who have evacuated from Mindanao to Metro Manila to escape and raise alarm over violent attacks against their tribes, lands, and schools. Since when has this been a crime? Does this even warrant a raid of our offices?
We believe supporting and empowering our Lumad brothers and sisters is a critical solution to the ecological crises we face today. They are the natural stewards of at least 7.7 million hectares of forests, agricultural lands, rivers, and reefs covered by their ancestral domain across the island of Mindanao.
Precisely because of this concentration of natural wealth in their territories, that the Lumads of Mindanao have become targets for displacement by the biggest extractive and destructive business interests in the country. Almost 50 percent of all the 225 environment-related killings, monitored since 2001, was perpetrated in the island of Mindanao. Indigenous peoples comprised 36 percent of all the victims.
The Lumads are at the nexus of ongoing ethnocide and ecocide in the country. President Rodrigo Duterte cannot escape responsibility for this crisis, with his declaration that he will bring in his handpicked foreign investors into the Lumad lands himself and that he will bomb Lumad schools who oppose his drive to plunder their natural resources. This is why these forces want to dismantle the broad support environmental and rights movements in the Philippines are throwing behind the Lumad struggle.
We believe it is not a coincidence that these attacks come during and after we recently came out with a report on Filipino environmental defender killings under Duterte with international anti-corruption group Global Witness. CEC and Kalikasan have joined the Lumads in exposing the violence perpetrated by large scale mines and agribusiness alongside mercenary military and paramilitary groups in Mindanao.
We are issuing this warning to Duterte and his police and military: Environmental defenders have a world to win. We will not be cowed by your tyrannical rule.
You will be made to answer to national and international institutions and the global public if you persist with these tactics of harassment and intimidation.