Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment criticized the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for leveling what they term “trumped-up charges” against Cebu-based anti-reclamation advocate John Ruiz III.
The environmental group labeled this as a “clear case of the weaponization of the law against environmental defenders.”
Ruiz, along with development worker Jhonggie Rumol of the Visayas Institute for Human Development Agency Inc., faces charges of frustrated homicide by the AFP.
They are accused of involvement in an armed encounter between the AFP and the New People’s Army on April 6, 2023.
“The attack against John Ruiz III is grossly unfounded and is clearly a directed attack against his person in light of his participation in pro-people, pro-environment campaigns,” said Jon Bonifacio, national coordinator of the group.
“His participation in anti-reclamation campaigns in Minglanilla, Cebu, and other parts of the province is testament to his dedication to the cause of protecting our planet,” he added.
Kalikasan PNE highlighted the rising instances of human rights violations and attacks against anti-reclamation advocates under the Marcos Jr. administration.
Referring to the recent abduction of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano and the public red-tagging of environmental and human rights groups involved in the anti-reclamation campaign last September, the group criticized the administration for “condoning these attacks against the defenders of coastal ecosystems.”
The Philippines has consistently been identified as a hazardous country for land and environmental activists.
According to a 2023 report by the international human rights watchdog Global Witness, the Philippines ranks as the deadliest country in Asia for environmental defenders over the past decade.
“Over the course of his term, Marcos Jr. has said nothing about the continuing human rights crisis faced by environmental defenders in our country,” said Bonifacio.
“We must continue our demands to exact accountability from the state institutions behind these attacks and keep calling for the abolition of institutions like the NTF-ELCAC in the soonest possible time,” he said.