DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Philippines once again landed on top among the 21 countries tagged as dangerous for farmers, farm workers, indigenous people, and other activists resisting land and resource-grabbing.
Based on Land and Rights Watch 2018 Yearend Report, the Pan Asia Pacific (PANAP) monitored in the 21 countries some 128 cases of killings; arrests, detention, and legal persecution; threats, harassment and physical assault; and displacement that are related to land conflicts and struggles in 21 countries from January 1 to November 30, 2018.
According to PANAP, 57 of the cases were of killings with 91 victims; 37 of arrests and detention and legal persecution with 136 victims; 23 of threats, harassment, and physical assault with 49 victims; and 11 of displacement with 9,288 victims.
Of the 91 victims of killings, 15 were indigenous people; 43 were farmers and farm workers; 32 were land activists, and one was unspecified. Also, Seventy-seven victims or 85% of the victims were male, while 14 victims or 15% were female.
“Every week this year, two are being killed for resisting land grabs; three more are being arrested and detained,” the group noted.
A country of peasant massacres
Among 21 countries, the Philippines recorded the highest number of victims with 33 individuals and 21 cases of killings during the period.
PANAP said the country become “notorious for the string of massacres” of indigenous people, farmers, farm workers, mentioning the latest incident of ‘Sagay 9’ massacre, wherein nine farmers and farm workers were killed by some 40 armed men on October 20. The victims who were members of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NSFW) participated in bungkalan or collective cultivation of 75 hectares of idle lands in Hacienda Nene in Negros.
Included in the report is the killing of Atty. Ben Ramos, a pro-bono lawyer of farmers and human rights activists, who was helping the families of the victims and survivors of the ‘Sagay 9’ massacre, gunned down by unknown assailant, barely three weeks after the massacre.
PANAP noted that killings and human rights situation in Mindanao worsened after placing the island under martial law on May 23, 2017.
The group participated in an international fact-finding mission organized by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas( KMP) on April 6-9, which said there was a “glaring increase in the number of human rights violations against farmers, indigenous people and rural peoples with the rise in the number of combat troops deployed in Mindanao.”
“The first six months after the declaration saw 29 victims of killings, many of whom were affiliated with KMP; 58 victims of illegal arrests and detention; and 335,686 victims of indiscriminate firing and aerial bombing of civilian communities.”
Across the 21 countries, PANAP said majority of the human rights violations in 2018 were perpetrated by the military, paramilitary and/or police.
Seventy-one cases or 55 percent of the 128 cases allegedly involved state forces and paramilitary groups.14 cases of killings; 37 cases of arrests/detention/legal persecution; 9 cases of threats/harassment/physical assault; and 11 cases of displacement.
On the other hand, 47 cases were perpetrated by unidentified assailants; and 10 cases by private security and hired goons.
In the Philippines, it said that “the killings are feared to increase after [President] Duterte, days after the ‘Sagay 9’ massacre, ordered the police and the military to arrest and, in case they resist, shoot landless farmers participating in bungkalan”.
Mining ranked as the top industry violator of human rights in the 21 countries, PANAP said.
Around 2,744 victims were recorded in 21 cases of rights violations involving mining; followed by agriculture(2 cases, 1,200 victims);tourism(6 cases,307 victims); real estate development(1 case, 128 victims);plantation(18 cases, 40 victims);energy projects(14 cases,24 victims);and others(5 cases,14 victims).
Next to Philippines, India follows with the high number of victims of killings related to land conflicts and struggles, claiming the lives of 13 farmers. Guatemala and Mexico both recorded 9 killings. Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela both also recorded 5 killings.
Other countries included in the list are: Cambodia, Peru, Honduras, Kenya, Tanzania, Myanmar, Indonesia, Argentina, Bolivia, China, Ecuador, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Zambia.
PANAP comprises 105 network partner organizations in the Asia Pacific region and links with about 400 other civil society organizations and grassroots organizations regionally and internationally. Land & Rights Watch (LR Watch) is an initiative of PANAP and our partners and networks under the No Land, No Life! Campaign to closely monitor and expose human rights abuses against communities opposing land and resource grabbing. (davaotoday.com)