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EDITORIAL - Environmentalists under attack

Two days before International Human Rights Day was observed, another environment activist was murdered in Nueva Vizcaya. Cheryl Ananayo, a member of the Didipio Earthsavers’ Multipurpose Association, and her cousin-in-law Randy Nabayay were killed by gunmen Friday night. Environment groups said Ananayo was with her three-month-old baby and four-year-old child when she was killed. The children at least were spared.

Ananayo’s death brought to 15 the number of environment activists killed this year, according to environment groups. The groups count 27 environmental advocates killed since President Aquino assumed power. The impunity is blamed on the failure of both the current and previous administrations to solve the killings of environmental activists since 2001. 

That failure extends to the killings of activists in other fields as well as journalists. The worst attack on media workers – the Maguindanao massacre in 2009 – at least was so atrocious that key members of the once powerful clan accused of responsibility are currently held without bail and are on trial for the crime.

Many other killings, however, may never be solved. In many of the cases, no suspects have been identified by investigators and no motive established. With even witnesses going into hiding, trails have gone cold.

Yesterday, police appeared to have no leads on the killing of Ananayo and her relative. Ananayo and her group opposed mining operations in Nueva Vizcaya. Environment groups noted that her murder came on the heels of the killing in October of another anti-mining advocate in Davao del Sur. Juvy Capion was murdered together with her two sons.

President Aquino, who wants to attract more mining investments, should give marching orders to both the police and military to solve the killings. The attacks complicate the national debate on mining. Those touting responsible mining should also want the murders solved and stopped. Only the arrest of the killers and solution of the crimes will deter further attacks.

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