Online libel case aims to silence legitimate opposition to magnetite mining

GREEN groups condemned today the filing of an online libel case and the subsequent arrest of Esperlita Garcia, president of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation (GAEPP), as an under-handed ploy to silence critics of destructive magnetite mining operations in Gonzaga, Cagayan.

The case was filed by Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr., a known pro-mining kingpin in the province.

“Even with a standing TRO on the Cybercrime Prevention Act, this did not prevent Mayor Pentecostes from harassing environment leaders in their municipality with an online libel case. This clear case of state-sponsored harassment is yet another manifestation of the impunity in Cagayan towards opponents of magnetite mining operations, particularly the Lian Xing Phils Stone Carving Co. and Huaxia Mining and Trading Corporation,” said Leon Dulce, spokesperson of Kalikasan Partylist and convener of Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders (TF-JED).

Records of TF-JED show that Garcia’s case and illegal arrest is the 19th incident of human rights violation (HRV) only this year, and second this month of October alone. HRVs vary from death threats, persecution and vilification to physical harassment, community displacement and even attempted assassinations. 13 politically-motivated killings have also already been recorded this year.

“Mayor Pentecostes demonstrates once again his penchant for strong-arm tactics to cover up the various cases of freshwater contamination, coastal erosion, decreasing fish catch, fish kills and degrading aquatic ecosystems experienced by communities because of magnetite mining operations. We challenge him to face the music instead of cracking down on his critics,” said Dulce.

According to the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE), an Ombudsman case was filed against Mayor Pentecostes in 2011 for the physical harassment of protesters by him and his security forces during an anti-mining mobilization. The leader-organizers of these protest actions were subjected from then up to the present to a series of incidents of intimidation, harassment, threats and militarization.

“Mayor Pentecostes’ libel suit is a classic example of a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) used by corporations and other powerful entities to discourage opposition to their anti-people and anti-environment projects,” said Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE.

“We call on the people of Cagayan to strengthen their resolve in struggling against magnetite mining through GAEPP. We also encourage lawyer advocates to help maximize the SLAPP defense mechanisms instituted in the Supreme Court’s Annotation to the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases,” ended Bautista.


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