A day before the 36th anniversary of EDSA People Power Movement, five Lumad rights advocates were killed by government troops during an alleged “rescue operation” of the Indigenous People in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. According to local sources, the military subsequently staged the massacre as an “NPA encounter”.
Among those killed was Chad Booc, a computer science graduate who chose the life of an indigenous rights activist, as a volunteer teacher for a Lumad alternative school in Surigao del Sur. Witnessing firsthand the intense repression in the countryside, he was active in campaigns against the militarization of Lumad ancestral lands and also became one of the signatories in the 24th petition against the Duterte administration’s Anti-Terror Law. In 2021, he was arrested during a police raid in Cebu for allegedly training minors to become “terrorists”, a charge repeatedly used by the government against volunteer teachers like him.
This horrific episode reminds us all of the current administration’s complete disregard for our environmental defenders. It reminds us of how unsafe this country is for environmental defenders like Chad, who are only trying to help the Lumad in their fight for self-determination against the encroachment of destructive companies.
We at YACAP vehemently condemn the actions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines leading to these killings, and join the calls for justice for all those slain in this cold-blooded attack. We openly oppose all attacks and violations the Duterte administration has perpetrated on environment defenders, including baseless red-tagging that has resulted in the loss of life. We reiterate the call to abolish the NTF-ELCAC as the primary institution behind the red-tagging of environment and human rights activists.