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Murder of Environmental Lawyer in Philippines Sparks Outrage

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Murder of Environmental Lawyer in Philippines Sparks Outrage
Photo credit: Ralf Falbe

By Maeve McClenaghan

The murder of an environmental lawyer in the Philippines has provoked outrage in a country where environmental activists are increasingly targeted.

Mia Manuelita Cumba Masacariñas-Green was shot dead on Feb. 15 after her car was ambushed by two men on motorbikes in the Filipino capital Bohol. Masacariñas-Green, 49, was driving her three young children home when she was shot in the head and body. Her children, who witnessed the killing, were unhurt.

Activists Targeted

Nearly 100 environmental activists defenders have been killed in the Philippines since 2010. A third of those happened in 2015 alone. Violence is increasingly common in the Philippines where President Rodrigo Duterte's so-called "war on drugs" has led to state sanctioned murders of more that 7,000 people in the last seven months, according to Amnesty International.

Investigators have not yet determined a motive nor found the gunmen responsible for Masacariñas-Green's murder. But activists on the ground fear the lawyer was targeted because of her work.

Late last year, campaigners working to stop illegal fishing reported receiving death threats.

Global Witness has described the Philippines as "one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an environmental or land defender."

Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, condemned the killing:

"Those who cause environmental destruction are resorting to savage measures and deplorable acts to stop communities and people who are standing up to protect our imperiled environment and the very ecosystems that support the lives and livelihoods of our people.

"Let our grief and our outrage at such horrifying acts be heard. Let our actions and people's movements spur our society towards a green and peaceful future."

Colette Pichon Battle, attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy. Colette Pichon Battle

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