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12 September 2014

Justice for Engr. Delle Salvador and all Disaster Responders at Risk!


 We join the Cordilleran people in lamentation and righteous anger over the death of Engr. Fidela ‘Delle’ Salvador, a development worker, community organizer, and people’s engineer, who was recently killed in a military operation led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 41st Infantry Battalion in Lacub town, Abra.

Engr. Delle was on a monitoring visit to different community-beneficiaries of socio-economic projects implemented by the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CorDis-RDS). Another civilian, Noel Viste, was also killed in the same military operation.

She served as project implementer in CorDis-RDS, including projects that provided resilient shelters, irrigation systems, farm tools, and other disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation programs in communities affected by Typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma).

Earlier in her life, Delle was an active church worker in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the Cordillera Ecumenical Movement for Action and Transformation. In 1993, she helped organize mining communities under the Mining Communities Development Center in Itogon, Benguet in 1993. She also worked with the Cordilleran peasant alliance APIT-Tako in 2003.

Responders at risk

We vehemently condemn the worsening impunity of the Aquino government towards the endangered species of environmental advocates and disaster responders to which Engr. Delle belongs.

The killing of Engr. Delle is the latest extra-judicial killing perpetrated against an environmental advocate, specifically a disaster responder. A total of 77 environmental advocates have been killed since 2001, of which 39 killings occurred under the administration of Pres. Noynoy Aquino.

With Engr. Delle’s death, there are now seven (7) disaster responders that have been killed under the Aquino government, including humanitarian workers, disaster survivors, and grassroots disaster responders.

By subjecting environmental advocates and disaster responders to harassment, threats, vilification, and ultimately extrajudicial killing, Noynoy Aquino is sending the message that it is willing to use violence to defend business-as-usual policies, projects and programs that benefit the few, adversely affect the many, and ultimately lead to environmental destruction, plunder, and extreme people’s vulnerability to disasters and climate change.

Defend disaster responders

Engr. Delle chose the path less travelled in dedicating her life and expertise to help the most vulnerable communities who continue to suffer from the criminal neglect and abandonment of the Aquino government amidst worsening disasters and other climate change impacts. But the Aquino government responded to this commitment to address people’s needs with atrocious militarization and rights violation.

The 41st IB’s military operations must immediately be pulled out of Lacub, Abra, and its troops should be held to account for perpetrating this grave crime against humanity. Ultimately, we must call for the scrapping of the Oplan Bayanihan, the counter-insurgency program that has systematically militarized thousands of communities across the Philippines opposing development aggression.

If we are to achieve a just and lasting peace, we must compel the Aquino government to resume peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and challenge them to earnestly address the root causes of armed conflict: extreme poverty, land-grabbing and environmental plunder, repression and rights violation, and various other social injustices.

The Philippine environmental movement will continue the legacy of Engr. Delle in helping the people help themselves in confronting the environmental and climate crises we face. We pledge to work tirelessly to bring Engr. Delle’s murderers to justice, and to persist in the people’s struggle to defend our communities and environment!#

Reference: Leon Dulce (0917 562 6824), campaign coordinator – Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment | Spokesperson – Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders