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6 Apr 2020

Nick Aspinwall, The Diplomat

Philippines: brutal crackdown on activists and environmental defenders amid spread of Covid-19

"The Philippines’ Coronavirus Lockdown Is Becoming a Crackdown", 03 April 2020

The Philippines, like many developing countries, is being dealt a particularly brutal blow by the coronavirus. Social distancing is impossible in cramped urban areas. For Filipinos living paycheck to paycheck, the abrupt loss of work is devastating families. But Duterte’s stewardship during the coronavirus pandemic has been punctuated by what rights advocates call a chilling disregard for the poor and the persecuted... 

For the country’s rights activists, journalists, and environmental defenders, the new measures have provoked fears the targets on their back will widen – and that the laws, like past emergency proclamations in the Philippines, will not be quickly rolled back once the pandemic’s peak has passed... Gloria Tumalon, a Manobo indigenous activist and opponent of mining projects, was arrested in the Surigao del Sur region of Mindanao. Tumalon was one of 468 people accused of being a NPA member, a charge it disputed. Environmental defenders in Mindanao, especially indigenous opponents of mining and agriculture projects, are often labeled as communists... In Negros, where police and military forces have arrested and killed members of farmers groups and land rights activists it accuses of being communist rebels, associates of one group have reported receiving frequent “visits” from the military during the island-wide lockdown.