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Fishermen claim they were duped into signing ‘kalikasan’ petition

/ 12:22 PM July 11, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — Several fishermen who were part of a petition seeking the government to enforce environmental protection in the West Philippine Sea have disowned the petition, saying they were deceived into signing it.

The fishermen from Brgy. Pag-asa in Kalayaan, Palawan and Zambales changed their tune and claimed that they were made to sign a blank document and did not have an idea that it would be used for a writ of kalikasan petition, affidavits seen by Inquirer.net showed.

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The affidavits were signed by 22 fishermen: 2 from Zambales and 20 from Kalayaan, Palawan.

Wilfredo Labandelo and Nilo Labrador from Zambales stated in their affidavits that they approached the Integrated Bar of the Philippines last February to ask for help on the closure of a school and the displacement from their residence at Sitio Kinabukasan. 

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They said the IBP promised to assist them. They were asked for copies of their IDs and they were made to sign a blank piece of paper. 

The fishermen said they were later asked to go to the IBP office in Manila where they were shown the petition but they were not given time to read it. They only found about it in the news that it was about the West Philippine Sea. 

Angelo Sadang of Brgy. Pag-asa and a member of the Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association said he was tasked to circulate two blank pages of paper for his members to sign. They were told it was for benefit claims from the government.

Roberto Asiado, president of Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association, and Monico Abogado said they thought the petition was against poachers and illegal fishers. 

They claimed that they had no idea that it would be a case against the Philippine Navy (PN) or Philippine Coast Guard.

“Walang nabanggit sa amin na kakasuhan ang ano mang ahensya dito dahil kung nagkaganon, talagang ‘di kami pipirma. Nagulat na lang kami nang malaman namin na tila ginamit ang asosasyon namin sa Kalayaan upang kasuhan pala ang mismong ahensya na ito na syang katuwang namin doon,” they said.

Most of the fishermen said in their statements that they would not have signed it if they knew it was against government agencies who have helped them with their livelihood.

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A military officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the fishermen visited their headquarters in Palawan last May to say they were deceived into signing the petition against the Navy.

“It was the fishermen themselves that approached the PN… last May to highlight that they were duped into signing a petition against the PN,” the officer said.

Chel Diokno, the lawyer for the group of fishermen, has accused the government of being behind the fishermen’s change of tune. He said talking to their clients was a violation of legal ethics. 

He claimed that the fishermen petitioned for a writ of kalikasan “with full knowledge and consent, because all they want is to fish in our own seas and to earn enough to support their families.” /je

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TAGS: fishermen, kalikasan, navy, Petition, West Philippine Sea
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