The Philippines had the most number of farmers, lands rights activists, and indigenous peoples killed in 2019, mostly in relation to land disputes, according to a a recent report by international human rights group PAN Asia Pacific. This is the third consecutive year that the country has topped PAN Asia’s list.
The organization found that in the Philippines there were 38 cases of attacks against farmers and activists in 2019, resulting in the deaths of 50 victims. The Philippines was followed by Colombia, which had 21 attacks that left 27 dead, and Brazil, which had seven attacks killing nine.
In the Philippines, 22 victims of the victims were killed by unknown gunmen, but even more — 27 — were killed by government forces, such as the police, the military, and paramilitary groups.
The government often maintains that such killings are the result of counter-insurgency operations, such as the police’s massacre of 14 farmers in Negros Oriental province in March who were accused of being communist rebels. However, at least one congresswoman has alleged that the police carried out the bloody operation without an arrest warrant, and activists have also claimed the case was related to a land dispute.
Aside from killings, PAN Asia also decried the harassment experienced by activists, such as the 57 who were arrested in Bacolod City and nearby areas last month for allegedly possessing illegal firearms. The local organization Karapatan (“Rights”) slammed the arrests and called it a “crackdown against activists.”
PAN Asia also called out President Rodrigo Duterte’s government for seizing land from farmers and indigenous peoples “in exchange for revenues.”
They added that the data they have in the report was not exhaustive, but it could help “provide a glimpse of the alarming state of human rights confronted by indigenous peoples, farmers, farmworkers and others in the rural communities around the world that are defending their right to land and resources.”