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MANILA, Philippines -- Human rights and environmental groups on Thursday scoffed at the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ claim that no soldiers had committed human rights violations in the first quarter of this year.
Around 20 members of Karapatan, Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment and Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas marched to Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday to condemn the killing of environmentalists and call for an end to militarization in the provinces.
Clemente Bautista, Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator, refuted the military’s claim, pointing out that, of the 14 environmental activists murdered since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office in 2010, two were killed this month alone.
Ten of the murders happened in Mindanao.
On May 9, anti-mega dam activist Margarito Cabal was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Bukidnon, allegedly for his opposition to the planned Hydro-Electric Mega Dam-Pulangi V project of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (FIBECO) in Kibawe town.
If allowed to operate, the Pulangi V Mega Dam would submerge 22 villages, in Bukidnon and Cotabato, including indigenous peoples’ lands and small farms, the groups said.
This includes Tumaras village, where Cabal’s family lives.
On May 6, community leader and conservationist Frederick Trangia of Compostela Valley was also gunned down.
Trangia was a staunch protector of the Mainit National Park's biodiversity and natural resources and opposed the entry of large-scale mining.
"Karapatan condemns the killing of Margarito Cabal and Fred Trangia. All they did was to defend their lands from destructive projects of the government and private companies. Just because the AFP's Human Rights Offices are not receiving complaints doesn't mean there are zero human rights violation cases. This is nothing but an attempt to cover up the AFP's continuing human rights violation under Oplan Bayanihan," said Karapatan spokeswoman Cristina Palabay.
Bautista, meanwhile, called for an immediate investigation into the deaths of the slain environmentalists.