“The military forces in the area should be immediately investigated as there are several complaints and records of their involvement in human rights violations against anti-mining activists like Geertman.” – Kalikasan-PNE
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Outrage met reports that a Dutch environmental advocate based in the Philippines was killed early noon on July 3.
Willem Geertman, executive director of Alay Bayan Inc. (ABI), was shot and killed by unknown men in front of his office in Sto. Domingo, Angeles City Pampanga. As of this writing, human rights organizations in Central Luzon are securing more information on who was behind the killing and what the motives were.
ABI is a non-government organization that works on community-based and development-oriented responses in addressing the vulnerabilities stemming from poverty, powerlessness, environmental degradation and political abuse. Together with other environmental and civic organizations, Geertman and the ABI campaigned for disaster risk reduction and environmental concerns in Central Luzon.
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) immediately expressed grief and demanded justice for the slain environmentalist.
Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista said Geertman was a very active advocate against large-scale mining in Pampanga and Zambales provinces.
“The military forces in the area should be immediately investigated as there are several complaints and records of their involvement in human rights violations against anti-mining activists like Geertman,” he said.
According to reports, Geertman first arrived in the Philippines 46 years ago as a Dutch missionary. He eventually devoted his life in community development and NGO work in Central Luzon. He was actively involved in land rights and environmental protection issues and concerns in the region, particularly forest protection in Aurora, Pampanga and Zambales against logging and mining.
Kalikasan-PNE said Geertman was the 17th environmental activist killed under the Aquino administration and sixth this year.
“The Aquino administration is inutile in stopping the cold-blooded murder of environmental workers. The Aquino administration’s record is bloodier than the previous Arroyo administration. Worse, it appears that President Benigno Aquino III is encouraging the perpetration of killings and human rights violations against environmental activists by defending destructive projects like large-scale mining and commercial logging. The administration also gave orders to military and paramilitary forces to give protection and serve as security forces of mining and logging companies,” Bautista said.
ABI, Kalikasan PNE and various human rights groups will immediately conduct, this week, a fact-finding mission on the incident.
For its part, Bayan slammed Geertman’s killing and demanded that investigations should be immediately launched to expose the circumstances surrounding his death. Bayan said it worked with Geertman on relief missions, particularly last year in Nueva Ecija and Aurora in the aftermath of Typhoon Pedring. Alay Bayan facilitated the relief mission of the Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA) led by Bayan and allied groups.
Geertman is the second European NGO/Community worker killed under the Aquino regime, after the death of Fr. Pops Tentorio in Mindanao.
Harrasment against environmental journalists
In a related development, Kalikasan PNE also sounded the alarm over what it said was a harassment campaign against Mindanao environmental journalists.
Bautista said death threats are hounding reporters Edwin Iyo and Ben Serrano, and editor Herbie Gomez of the Mindanao-based Gold Star Daily for speaking the truth about illegal logging in Cagayan de Oro..... MORE