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Groups 'draw strength' from environment lawyer's life, death

MANILA, Philippines – Alternative law groups and environmental law groups gathered on Tuesday night, February 21, to remember the life of Mia Mascariñas-Green, the environmental lawyer who was ambushed and shot dead last week in Bohol.

About 10 groups were represented during the "indignation gathering" and mass for Mascariñas-Green on Tuesday at the Manila Observatory, according to environmental lawyer Tony La Viña.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who earlier called for a prompt investigation into the killings of environmental defenders, also paid a quick visit and gave a short, two-minute speech urging the lawyers present to "draw strength from the life and death" of Mascariñas-Green.

Grizelda Mayo-Anda, founding executive director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center where Mascariñas-Green used to volunteer at, echoed Robredo's sentiment.

"Dapat ba tayong matakot? Eh kayo na nagsabi (Should we be afraid? But you yourselves said) no, we should draw strength from each other. The commitment therefore for us is really to make her life and death as well as the life and death of our partners to be an opportunity to renew our strength," she said.

While her colleague's death shocked her, Mayo-Anda also took the time to remember paralegals and community leaders who have been killed in the last decade.

According to Filipino environment monitor Kalikasan, about 112 environmental campaigners have been murdered in the Philippines over the past 15 years.

In the last 7 months of the Duterte administration alone, there have been 12 defenders slain, mostly activists against mining operations.

"Tayo na pinili ang ganitong larangan, hindi naging madali noon, at hindi magiging madali sa hinaharap (We who chose this profession, it was not easy before and it will not be easy in the future)," Dante Dalabajan of Oxfam said.

But for Marlon Manuel, national coordinator of Alternative Law Groups, Tuesday's gathering is an "affirmation" that the groups present "want to continue what we're doing, and we want to continue what Mia and many others had started."

'TOGETHER.' Marlon Manuel of the Alternative Law Groups says Tuesday's gathering is a 'celebration' of the choices that environmental lawyers like Mia Mascariu00f1as-Green make.

'TOGETHER.' Marlon Manuel of the Alternative Law Groups says Tuesday's gathering is a 'celebration' of the choices that environmental lawyers like Mia Mascariu00f1as-Green make.

'We need more lawyers'

Mayo-Anda warned her fellow advocates that this "cruel world…will become more cruel."

"While we get to prepare for the worst, we also have to...think of ways on how to make sure that we have constituencies we can leave behind," she said as she noted that more lawyers are needed to "carry on the work."

She added: "We have no right to get tired. Younger lawyers need us to [mentor them] and our communities need us as partners."

A SONG FOR MIA. A member of the audience sings a song during the gathering.

A SONG FOR MIA. A member of the audience sings a song during the gathering.

Dalabajan urged advocates to be a powerful force for change, especially in the face of "equally powerful and sometimes more powerful forces."

Manuel, meanwhile, said that he wants to see the younger generations continue the work that environmental lawyers have already started. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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