Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific (FoE APac) condemns the use of anti-communist and anti-terror laws to silence environmental and indigenous rights activists in the Philippines and Indonesia.

“In what seems like a throwback to the Cold War era in Southeast Asia, we have recently monitored the arrest of environmentalist Sherwin De Vera of Defend Ilocos by Philippine security forces last December and his subsequent charge with the crime of Rebellion; the Indonesian trial court’s judgment against anti mining activist Heri Budiawan (Budi Pego) last January for supposedly violating Criminal Code provisions on crimes against state security; and the inclusion just last week of environmental and indigenous rights activists in a list of alleged members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, that the government has petitioned a judicial court to declare as terrorists under its Anti-Terrorism Act.

We see these government actions as attempts to stifle dissenting voices against widespread violations of indigenous and rural communities’ rights as well as the opposition to corporate plunder of the environment and ancestral territories. These actions contravene the mandate to states by the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders to protect the rights of individuals working against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Romel de Vera, Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific’s Environmental and Human Rights Defenders Project Coordinator.

“The silencing of the voice of the peoples who fight for ecological justice and social justice by the government is a setback for democracy and human rights. WALHI urges the government to protect environmental defenders.”

Khalisah Khalid, Head of Campaign and Network Department, WALHI/Friends of the Earth Indonesia

Heri Budiawan (Budi Pego) who was imprisoned after joining a demonstration against gold mining in East Java in April last year, was convicted for allegedly spreading communism by allowing the unfurling of “hammer and sickle” banners in the anti-mining demonstration police claim he led.

Sherwin De Vera who is currently on bail in his Rebellion case, is also included in the Philippine government’s “terror list”, along with Vicky Tauli-Corpuz the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples, who called on the Philippine President last December to protest the effects of government military operations against indigenous peoples.

Many other environmental and indigenous rights activists who are network partners of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK) in the struggle for indigenous peoples rights in the Philippines are also on the list, including Joan Carling the former Secretary General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Beverly Longid of the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation and Windel Bolinget the Chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance.

“Past experience shows that communist and terrorist tagging by the state poses a serious threat to the safety, liberty and lives of those labeled as such. We only have to look back to 3 December 2017 when Datu Victor Danyan was killed in an alleged military operation by the Philippine armed forces against communist rebels in their area. Datu Victor led the struggle of the T-Boli-Manobos against the encroachment of the Consunji owned coffee plantations inside their ancestral territory.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific stands by all persecuted environmental and indigenous rights activists in their defense of the communities, territories and the environment. We condemn all government actions tagging individuals and groups as communists, terrorists, instigators, saboteurs and other labels that attempt to silence, pose harm or threaten the lives of environmental human rights defenders, their families, organizations and communities. Stop the oppression and persecution of defenders of rights and territories.”

Norly Mercado, Executive Director Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center – Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines

For further information, please contact:
Romel de Vera
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific Environmental Human Rights Defenders Project Coordinator
Tel: +63 917 700 2301
Email: mel.lrcksk[at]gmail.com