A Fililpino lawyer who specialized in investigating crimes against the environment has been ambushed and shot dead, police said on Friday.
In a report, the police said that Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green, who was driving a van, with her children and a nanny in the vehicle, was shot dead by four motorcycle-riding gunmen near her home in Bohol.
Mascariñas-Green was pronounced dead at a hospital but her children were unharmed, regional police spokesman Senior Insp. Reslin Abella said.
Mascariñas-Green’s murder deepened concerns that the Philippines is becoming one of the world’s most dangerous places for environmental campaigners, with more than 100 killed over the past 15 years.
“The victim is a known environmental lawyer. Investigators are checking whether the attack had any link to the cases she had handled in relation to environmental issues,” Abella said.
“They now have the identity of at least one of the perpetrators and a hot pursuit operation is ongoing,” she added without naming the suspect.
Abella said police were at the moment unaware if Mascariñas-Green had been threatened previously in relation to her work.
Her children are twins, aged two, and a 10-year-old daughter, according to local media reports.
Her death brings to 112 the number of environmental campaigners murdered in the Philippines over the past 15 years, according to Filipino environment monitor Kalikasan.
This includes 12 since President Rodrigo Duterte took office seven months ago, Kalikasan said.
“Most of these cases remain unresolved as the government continues to ignore the threat against environmental defenders,” Clemente Bautista, its national coordinator, said.
“What this means is that the perpetrators are emboldened to do it again and again because no one ever gets caught,” Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Sano, said.
Sano said the killing highlighted the culture of impunity in the Philippines, where powerful figures abuse a corrupt political and justice system to literally get away with murder.
“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 imperilled environment,” Sano said.
Environmental monitor Global Witness separately lists 88 killings of environmental activists and workers in the Philippines between 2010 and 2015.
The attacks spiked with 33 dead in 2015, ranking the Philippines as the second most dangerous country in the world for environmental campaigners behind Brazil.