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Slain environmental lawyer on death threats: 'This is our job'

MANILA, Philippines – Environmental lawyers and advocates who gathered Tuesday evening, February 21, remember Mia Mascariñas-Green as a "very intelligent and feisty woman" who fought for both environmental and human rights.

Grizelda Mayo-Anda, founding executive director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), learned that Mascariñas-Green refused security even after getting death threats.

"The attitude of Mia on death threats was: 'E trabaho natin 'to e (What can we do? This is our job).' So she refused security, that was what we learned from the police, na ayaw niyang magkaroon ng security detail (that she didn't want to have a security detail)," she recalled.

Mascariñas-Green died on Wednesday, February 15, near her home in Bohol after 4 motorcycle-riding gunmen surrounded the van she was driving and opened fire.

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. At least 12 of them were killed in the last 7 months of the Duterte administration.

"This death is one death too many, and we think if we want to...really make her death really meaningful, we want this to be the last death. It should be the last death among us, the last death among lawyers, or last death among Filipinos," environmental lawyer Tony La Viña said on Tuesday.

He said Mascariñas-Green "is a woman who touched everyone's lives," as evidenced by the fact that many people in Bohol were "very angry and sad" following her death.

'ONE DEATH TOO MANY.' Environmental lawyer Tony La Viu00f1a says Mia Mascariu00f1as-Green's death should be the last 'among lawyers and among Filipinos.' Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

'ONE DEATH TOO MANY.' Environmental lawyer Tony La Viu00f1a says Mia Mascariu00f1as-Green's death should be the last 'among lawyers and among Filipinos.

' Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

Mayo-Anda affirmed this: "She has a beautiful spirit, and she's very caring about people, especially the poor communities, and even among ourselves."

She talked about how Mascariñas-Green, as a young volunteer lawyer, helped in organizing the ELAC-Bohol team.

"Ang fond memories namin sa kanya was even if we had intense discussions within ELAC, discussions of enforcement, strategies, she always tells me, 'Gerth, 'wag kang mastress kasi marami pa namang tayong susuporta'," she recalled.

(Our fond memories of her was even if we had intense discussions within ELAC, discussions of enforcement, strategies, she always tells me, 'Gerth, don't be stressed out, because many of us will still support this.)

Mayo-Anda also recalled that time when a foreigner attempted to disbar Mascariñas-Green.

"Her cases, aside from legal advice on environment, she had women, battered women, and then she had a case of a foreigner who was basically committing crime, so she did her best to go to the immigration and deport that foreigner, and then she was sued and there was an attempt to disbar her several times... 4 times. It all failed," she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Marlon Manuel, national coordinator of Alternative Law Groups, said Tuesday's "indignation gathering" of environmental and human rights lawyers is also a celebration of the work they're doing.

"Tonight we celebrate our choices and we are together in our choices, and we are together in remembering Mia with us in our choices, with us in the work we're doing, and with us in pursuing [those] choices that we have made," he added.

Mayo-Anda also called on her fellow advocates to urge government to "make sure the culprits, the criminals are brought to justice."

"Mia, please continue to bless us," she said. – 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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