Words by EJ Lasanas
“Ang Lokal na Pamahalaan ng Infanta ay mariing nagpapahayag ng pagkondena sa mga naganap na karahasan sa ating bayan at sa mamamayan nito, lingkod-bayan man o sibilyan.”
[“The local government of Infanta vehemently condemns the violence in our municipality and in its citizens, be it public servants or civilians.”]
This was the statement of the Municipal Government of Infanta, Quezon after Mayor Filipina Grace America was seriously injured, following a shooting incident last February 27.
The incident happened while the mayor was leaving a religious gathering at a chapel of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). Mayor America was on her way home when still-unidentified assailants blocked her vehicle and opened fire.
In a Facebook post, Infanta Vice Mayor Lord Arnel Ruanto condemned the assassination attempt on Mayor America.
“Violence has no place in our peaceful town! We condemn this! Let us be united! Exert all our efforts to find the perpetrator,” Ruanto wrote.
Meanwhile, Bishop Bernardino Cortez of the prelature of Infanta also condemned the crime.
“Kailanman ay hindi maaaring maging solusyon ang karahasan sa mga suliranin at usapin ng hindi pagkakaunawaan bagkus magiging daan pa ito ng pagkakahati-hati ng mga tao […] Nawa ay magkaroon ng katarungan ang karumal-dumal na pangyayaring ito,” he wrote.
[“Violence will never be a solution to problems and issues of misunderstanding. On the contrary, it will even pave the way to divide humanity … May justice be served for this heinous crime.”]
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has recently formed a task force to probe the assassination attempt. Police said that they look into politics as one of the motives of the attack on Mayor America, who is seeking re-election this 2022 under the Nacionalista Party.
Kaliwa Dam opponent
Mayor America is known for her opposition to the Kaliwa Dam construction. She warned that the community near the dam will be endangered during calamities such as earthquakes.
“This marks the second such incident related to the Kaliwa Dam in a matter of weeks as the onerous and controversial project continues to rack up media mileage for all the wrong reasons […] Ilang insidente pa ba ang kailangang maganap bago ito bigyang pansin ng ating pamahalaan? Ilang buhay pa ba ang hahayaan nilang manganganib para sa kontrobersyal at kaduda-dudang proyektong ito?” Senator Leila de Lima wrote in a press release last February 28.
[“How many such incidents have to happen before the government pays attention? How many lives have to be endangered for this controversial and suspicious project?”]
Kaliwa Dam has long been opposed by progressive and environmental groups, because of its threats both to the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples. The dam will submerge about 12,000 hectares of forest ecosystems in Sierra Madre (READ: Defending Makidyapat’s land: Dumagats continue fight against Kaliwa Dam project).
In November 2020, the local government of Quezon moved to stop the dam building, after Quezon’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) passed a resolution authorizing Governor Suarez to take the necessary steps in stopping the construction of Kaliwa Dam (READ: Quezon gov’t moves to stop Kaliwa Dam building).
However, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the dam construction was eventually signed last January 28. This was slammed by environmentalists, saying that the signing was “railroaded”. Dumagats said that some of the signatories are not even recognized by their community, further revealing that some of the leaders only surfaced when talks of bribery developed (READ: Government agencies rush negotiations on Kaliwa Dam construction; MOA signatories for Kaliwa Dam ‘bribed’ by gov’t agencies – Dumagat leader).
As indigenous peoples still continue to air their opposition on Kaliwa Dam even after the MOA signing, Sen. de Lima calls for the protection of the rights of environmental and human rights defenders, such as the likes of Mayor America.
“Finally, I call on the PNP to urgently investigate this matter of grave importance. It is a known fact that the activities of human rights defenders have suffered under this present regime,” Senator de Lima added. [P]
Photo from Mayor Filipina Grace America / Facebook