By SHERWIN DE VERA
VIGAN CITY – The Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) and Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) – Philippines condemned the continuing detention of environmental scientist, and peasant rights advocate Delilah “Delai” Padilla for trumped-up criminal charges filed by state forces in Cagayan Valley.
In separate statements, Agham and CEC said that Padilla’s apprehension and imprisonment are examples of attacks against environmental defenders and human rights advocates to silence and stop them from their advocacies. They also shared the significant contribution of Padilla to environmental defense and advocacy.
“As an environmental scientist, she was very dedicated to sharing her knowledge in far-flung communities that were experiencing environmental issues due to mining, logging, and pollution,” CEC Philippines said.
The institution added that “her work in environmental education resulted in improving the learning methods to promote the understanding of basic ecological principles among those who did not have formal schooling.”
Before relocating to Cagayan Valley, Padilla worked with CEC Philippines. She became part of the institution’s Environmental Research and Advocacy Program, where she worked to strengthen environmental education and awareness.
Later on, she also joined Agham to reach out to many scientists and encourage them to take part in people’s issues. In the early part of 2000, she became its Deputy Secretary-General.
According to Agham, Padilla headed the environmental investigation mission (EIM) in the coal mining areas in Cauayan, Isabela, in 2000. This undertaking exposed the dangers of coal mining and extractive industries to the people and the environment.
The group also noted that she was with the team that conducted the study on the impacts of the conversion of vast tracts of agricultural lands into monocrop plantations of Bt Corn in Isabela.
“Her temerity in the face of the glaring injustices that she saw challenged the status quo and helped stir the growing consciousness and will to act of the people she worked with. We know that her imprisonment will not deter her conviction to defend the environment and the people,” Agham said.
Agham lauded her for using her knowledge and expertise with the grassroots organizations and non-government sector “despite having the option to pursue a more lucrative career.”
According to the group, Padilla decided to move to Cagayan Valley after “realizing the need for a more proactive response to the needs of farmer communities.”
She was one of the conveners of Save the Valley, Serve the People, a broad multi-sectoral alliance against plunderous and destructive projects in the region. With her hard work and expertise, she earned respect and recognition of groups and communities, which eventually tasked her to become the spokesperson.
Padilla is a graduate of BS Biology from the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños. She also earned her Master in Environmental Science in UP Diliman.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region 2 apprehended her on October 8 in Leonarda Village, Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. She is facing charges for assault, murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder, and robbery. The government placed a P700,000 bounty for her arrest. Also arrested in a separate operation on the same day were Violeta Ricardo and Cristeta Miguel. Authorities tagged the three as a ranking officer of the Cagayan Valley Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The number of environmental activists red-tagged, arrested for trumped-up charges and killed continues to rise, said Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, with 225 killings recorded in the Philippines since 2001. This year, Global Witness, an international watchdog, reported the Philippines as the most dangerous country for land rights and environmental activists with 113 killed in the past three years alone. #