The Philippines’ COVID-19 lockdown has exacerbated threats to activists fighting for their lands and their environment, with least 10 land defenders swept up in a series of arrests by security forces during the two-month lockdown period.
Another defender, who was providing relief aid, was shot and killed by unknown assailants. 0n 30 April, 2020, Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia was gunned down in Iloilo City in the central Philippines by unidentified assailants. He was shot nine times by four assailants in his rented home after providing relief assistance to poor urban communities.
Porquia was a well-known community organiser in the province and the driving force behind the Madia-as Ecological Movement, the biggest environmental organisation in the Panay region. Porquia campaigned against large-scale mining, coal power plants, and mega-dam projects in Iloilo and nearby Capiz province. He also helped provide relief, livelihood and shelter assistance to victims of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Porquia, a popular activist during the Marcos dictatorship, was the Iloilo City coordinator of the party list group Bayan Muna. At the time of his death, he was actively leading their organisation’s feeding programme for communities most affected by the COVID-19 quarantine measures.
The son of a policeman, he became the first chairperson of the militant League of Filipino Students in Panay in 1984 and was repeatedly arrested for leading protests against the dictatorship. After spending years as a migrant worker in China, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore, he also became regional coordinator in Panay of the migrant group Migrante.
Human rights watchdog Karapatan has blamed the intensifying counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines for the attacks on activists. The group condemed the continuing killings, arrests, and harassment of farmers and activists by police and military forces during the COVID-19 pandemic.