Senate minority leader Alan Peter S. Cayetano called on the government to act on the reported killings of employees of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and environmentalists.
He said that the fact that the killings are not sensational media items, it is no reason for the national government to take the deaths lightly.
“It is disappointing to note that nothing has been heard of results of investigations on the deaths. Are these deaths all in vain? ,” he asked.
He noted that to date, 14 DENR employees and environmentalists have been killed under the Aquino administration, DENR Butuan employee Ricardo Magallanes being the most recent on June 1.
“This series of events has a chilling effect on various environmental groups,” he said.
“Instead of speaking out against illegal loggers and other violators of the country’s environmental laws, they will cease to do so for fear of their lives,” he added.
He cited the case of the illegal logging operations discovered inside the 13,800-hectare forest traversing Zambales and the Pangasinan town of Mangaterem.
The senator said the Aquino administration’s call for environmental protection should be matched by measures that will protect those who respond to the call.
“Violators have no qualms resorting to violence to keep their operations profitable. Government must send a strong message to those who intimidate and silence environmentalists with impunity that these acts will not go unpunished,” he said.
The minority leader suggested the creation of a joint DENR and Department of Justice (DOJ) task-force to investigate the deaths and recommend measures to counter the deadly tactics of the syndicates and unscrupulous businessmen.
Cayetano stressed that with local agencies manning the front lines, it is incumbent upon the national government to provide all the support in the campaign particularly against illegal loggers and miners.