Environmental groups challenge newly-appointed Justice Leonen

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THE Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, the militant and progressive environmental movement of the Philippines, extend our congratulations to Marvic Leonen for his appointment as the newest associate justice of the Supreme Court.

“We remember when Leonen served as lead counsel in the La Bugal-B’laan Tribal Association vs Ramos case – the legal challenge against the widely criticized Mining Act of 1995. We have seen how Associate Justice Leonen consistently stood for the broad masses of people victimized by the destruction of our environment and the plunder of our natural resources brought about by foreign and destructive large-scale mining,’the group said.

Leonen proved his mettle as a champion for the environment before his entry into the current administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III. This Aquino government, quite the opposite of Leonen’s track record, is notorious for its pursuit of the wanton liberalization of our minerals, water and other natural resources, and the promotion of pollutive projects such as coal-fired power plants, Clemente Bautista, Jr. ,national coordinator, Kalikasan PNE, said .

Fresh in our memories, for instance, is the passage of Executive Order (EO) 79, the much-touted policy of Aquino on mining. Upon closer inspection, EO 79 was revealed to have done nothing but reinforce contentious provisions on mining liberalization, override local bans against destructive open-pit mining technology, and gave mere lip service to the widely clamored calls for environmental safety, the group said.

The greatest challenged upon Leonen, then, is to remain steadfastly independent from the neoliberal direction where the Aquino government’s tuwid na daan is intently leading to.

We hope that Leonen’s position as justice will not serve as the Aquino government’s tool to co-opt his environmental activism, but instead be maximized as a venue to pursue much-needed environmental justice and reforms, they said.

We also challenged Leonen to be instrumental to the advancement of our long-standing campaign to stop the unresolved killings and push for the immediate dispensation of justice for all environmental activists victimized under the Arroyo and the current Aquino regimes,” Bautista said.

Since 2001, at least 60 environmental advocates were recorded to have been killed for their activism. 2012, Aquino’s second year as president, was the bloodiest year with 13 cases of politically-motivated killings, 10 of which involved anti-mining advocates, and 10 of which occurred in Mindanao.

“We are looking forward to see Leonen’s environmental activism in action at the Supreme Court, and we urge him to make the coming years of his servitude as justice fruitful by continuing the legacy of La Bugal,” they said.

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