Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cover Story of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Cover Story : Mother nature lays down the law, …therefore the law should serve nature

In-depth story on the education, life, and work of Antonio Oposa.

HERE is one lawyer who says he is not in love with law, not in the way that others wax poetic over legal philosophies and the sheer beauty they find therein.

But then environmental lawyer Antonio “Tony” Oposa, Jr. is not a conventional lawyer. When his Harvard Law classmates picked him to deliver the valedictory address at their graduation, Oposa did not dwell on the law but gave a speech titled “On Friendship and Laughter.”

“For me, law is a tool, a thinking tool to guide human conduct,” says this precocious lawyer.

Friday, April 28, 2006


EarthRights International writes on Antonio Oposa.

Please take a moment out of your day to call or write a letter to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo demanding that authorities take swift action to ensure the safety of Tony Oposa and all environmental activists working in the Philippines.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

RĂ©mi Parmentier: "Kill the Greens"

Blog coverage at Chez Remi:

We, in Western Europe have a tendency to take for granted our right to speak and protest. We tend to forget that the vast majority of humankind does not enjoy the same level of freedom.

We also tend to take for granted the right to stand up for the environment. And we are shocked when peaceful environmentalists in other parts of the world are jailed or killed.


Roger Alford: "Environmentalist Murdered in the Philippines"

Blog coverage from Opinio Juris:

A group of environmental law activists and law professors have circulated emails indicating that Mr. Oposa is appealing "to his friends and allies across the world to help him in requesting immediate assistance to protect him and his family and to encourage action by local, national, and international authorities." They have initiated a letter writing campaign to the Philippine authorities, made overtures to the MSM to highlight Oposa's plight, and offered Oposa temporary sanctuary in the United States.


A Eulogy: Jojo de la Victoria: Dearest Friend, Comrade-in-Arm, and Blood Brother

Following is the text of a eulogy delivered at Joj de la Victoria's funeral by Antonio Oposa:

At two o’clock in the morning of Holy Monday, April 10, per agreement, Jojo picked me up from my hotel. We were joining the NBI Team in the raid against blasting powder and blasting caps in a remote island off the Lapulapu City. It was a very tiring taxing operation. Our boat got lost at sea, and what would have taken a 40 minute trip took almost four hours. But the special operation was successful and we arrested several sacks of blasting power and scores of blasting caps.

Since we were running late for our meeting with (Cebu) Governor Gwen Garcia and the commercial fishing boat owners, I asked a friend to pick us up with her speedboat. As I was climbing the bow of the speedboat from the seashore with some difficulty, Jojo joked: “Our knees are a little weaker already, you know.” I laughed and slipped, and fell into the water. My cell phone slipped out of my pocket and also fell into the sea, which Jojo himself promptly picked up. And we both laughed.

We sped to the mainland (about 35 minutes away) and then hopped into his rickety vehicle, and proceeded to the 10:30 meeting. We made it on time, with 5 minutes to spare. All these without any breakfast, without sleep, and without even a shower.

We debated and discussed the issues in the meeting. At lunch, I met with the Governor and her consultant (and brother) together with Jojo to lobby for the grant of the Provincial Government’s radio time. Jojo and I had earlier agreed that we should begin shifting our efforts to public education, through mass communication. The Governor agreed to give us 30 minutes a week, and her brother/aide and Jojo agreed to discuss the details. Jojo would serve as (unpaid) anchor of the radio program.

At about 3 pm, we went separate ways. I was off to Bantayan Island to join my family for the weeklong holiday, and he, off to work. Such, my friends, was the extent of his commitment.

Forty-eight hours later, he was shot in his house.

As we all know, Jojo dedicated his life for the protection of the seas. To those of you who may now know it, according to the UN and other scientific studies, the Visayan Seas is the richest marine waters on Earth. Yet those who do not understand it have been abusing this wealth for so long, perhaps thinking all throughout that this is right. We do not wish to pick a fight with you; we only want you to understand that there is no right nor wrong in what you are doing, there are only consequences. If we abuse our marine wealth today, if we destroy the very source of our food, that consequence will be that nothing will be left for our children to eat? Do we want that?

We only wish that our brothers would understand that we hold the richest marine wealth on earth, and that if we just took care of it, we will never go hungry. To those who do not understand this, let us sit down, let us discuss, let us debate and let us argue -- within the bounds of law. This is the way of a civilized people.

To those of you who took his life, I hope you will be bothered by your conscience and from now on, sleep with your eyes open. The good book says, “Vengeance is mine,” sayeth the Lord. Divine justice and the law of karma will get to you one day.

To those of you who took his life, do you think that you have snuffed out the light out of his candle? No! Instead you have lit a little matchstick that will cause a conflagration in our hearts which will only strengthen our resolve. Hopefully, it will also be the fire that will bring light to every nook and cranny of the minds of our people. In every movement for social change, there is a tipping point where change really begins. The death of Jojo is that tipping point.

Rest assured, Jojo, that we will continue the fight to protect and restore the richest marine waters on Earth. There may be a few of us, a handful of us. But a great social thinker of the 20th century once said that, “Never doubt for a single moment that a handful of thoughtful and committed men and women CAN change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever did.”

Those of you who vow to carry on from where Jojo left off, please stand up. (Each and every one in the Church starts to stand up).

As a token of our gratitude to Jojo for his efforts, his tears and his blood; as a token of our thanks to Evelyn (wife) and Vincent (son) and his family for the support that they have given him; and as a token of our resolve to continue the fight, let the world hear a big, loud, and resounding applause.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Greenpeace Crew and Activist Blog on Oposa

"Mr. Oposa, who runs the Law of Nature Foundation and is the chairperson of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines/National Environmental Action Team, routinely organizes and leads actions to protect the environment, most recently campaigning to have the Visayan Sea, one of the Phillipines most threatenened and biologically diverse areas, closed to destructive commercial fishing.

Anyone who knows anything about the realities of Philippines politics will realise how serious this is - a real death threat against a very courageous environmentalist. Mr Oposa has appealed to friends and allies around the world to help him by sending a clear message to the Phillipine Government- track down and prosecute the people behind Mr de la Victoria’s murder, and enact the Visayan Sea fishing ban as a legacy to him."


Monday, April 24, 2006

Letter to Philippine Community

Philippine Environmental Activist Threatened, Colleague Assassinated

Antonio “Tony” Oposa, Jr., a Harvard educated environmental lawyer, requires immediate assistance. Mr. Oposa and his family fear for their lives after the brutal assassination of colleague, Elpidio “Jojo” De la Victoria, in Cebu City on April 12, 2006. Local officials believe hostility of the local fishing industry to the environmental reforms championed by both men may have motivated the attack, and the current death threats to Mr. Oposa.

Law professors from around the world have signed a Declaration of Concern, expressing their horrified dismay at the murder of Mr. De la Victoria, and the threats to Mr. Oposa’s life and work to protect the biodiversity of the Visayan Sea from unsustainable fishing techniques. The legal community is especially concerned for Mr. Oposa’s safety as he attends the funeral for De la Victoria this Sunday, April 23, 2006, despite the P1,000,000 bounty on his head.

Please circulate this email to as many people in the Philippine community as possible, to raise awareness about the current threats to Mr. Oposa’s life, and to stop this needless bloodshed. Attached is additional information regarding the current situation, and how to help out. For further information, please contact Professor Zygmunt Plater ( at Boston College Law School or Professor John Bonine ( at the University of Oregon School of Law.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Jojo’s ‘cause to go on’

From Sun.Star Cebu:

THE advocacy that Elpidio “Jojo” dela Victoria started lives on.

At least 2,000 people have vowed to continue dela Victoria’s fight to protect marine resources.

Dela Victoria, who was shot last April 12 and died the next day, was buried at the Talisay City Public Cemetery yesterday after a 1 p.m. concelebrated requiem mass at the St. Joseph Parish Church in Tabunok.

Msgr. Esteban Binghay, archdiocesan Episcopal vicar, dela Victoria’s son Vincent and lawyer Antonio Oposa, president of the Visayan Sea Squadron, were one in beseeching those around to continue what he started.

“The death of Jojo will hopefully serve as a wake-up call for all of us. Kung kugihan ang mga dautan, mas kugihan unta ang mga buotan. Pagkadaghan mohandum ni Jojo. Apan daghan ba kaha ang misunod sa iyang buhat? Maghugpong ta. Atong sundon ang iyang gisugdan,” Binghay said, who served as the main celebrant in the mass.


Cebu City's Commercial Fishers

Editorial from Sun.Star Cebu:

The investigation into the killing of Cebu City Bantay Dagat chief Elpidio "Jojo" de la Victoria has focused so far on the suspected gunman, SPO1 Marcial Ocampo.
The angle most prominently being pursued about his death was the fight of de la Victoria, aptly named by Inquirer columnist Ma. Ceres Doyo as an "Earth Day martyr," against illegal fishers. Published reports following his death showed how his advocacy, together with that of environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa, to close the Visayan sea triangle to commercial fishing vessels, had made some people unhappy.

Who are these people? Who are the commercial fishers known to go past the barriers on the Visayan sea?

Environment advocates have described these fishers as well-funded, equipped with adequate gears, sometimes armed, and usually from outside Cebu but with supporters from among town officials of Cebu.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Letter to Academics World-wide

Please send to academics world-wide:

[Please visit and for more background and updates.]

A colleague’s life is in danger. Professor Antonio Oposa, Jr., a Harvard-educated lecturer at the University of the Philippines College of Law, has a bounty of PHP 1 million on his head because of his activities curtailing illegal commercial fishing in the Visayan Sea. The academic community worldwide must join the legal community in denouncing this brutal act of terrorism. Both must call upon the government of the Philippines to protect Prof. Oposa, his family, and the environmental interests he continues to fight for in the face of these threats.

On April 12, 2006, Prof. Oposa’s close colleague and friend Elpidio de la Victoria, a Cebu City government official, was shot dead in front of his wife and son in broad daylight. Furthermore, this act of violence was committed by the hired gun of an off-duty policeman, a citizen and protector of peace. Of the two contracts commissioned, Prof. Oposa is now the second, yet unfulfilled. The power of these terrorist activities is great; but by imploring upon the Philippine government, future acts may be prevented. If words alone can prevent the senseless elimination of this noble life, then is it not a worldwide duty to wield these words?

Prof. Oposa is a shining representative for the international academic community. Beyond his professorial duties, he has served the public and private sectors regarding environmental concerns. He was chosen as the commencement speaker at the Harvard Law School in 1997. Prof. Oposa has dedicated his life to education, advocacy, and academics. It behooves the international academic community to support the protection of his life and implead upon the government of the Philippines to recognize the value and basic human rights of academics everywhere.

For further information, please contact Professor Zygmunt Plater ( at Boston College Law School or Professor John Bobine ( at the University of Oregon School of Law.

Please visit and for more background and updates.

Philippines: Earth Day Martyr and Price on Environmental Lawyer's Head

Article by Prof. John Bonine at the Univ. of Oregon School of Law:

CEBU, Philippines, April 20, 2006 (ENS) - As Earth Day dawned around the world, word came that one environmental advocate in the Philippines was gunned down last week and another is living under threat to his life. A leading Philippines newspaper today called the murdered man an “Earth Day martyr.”


Commercial fishing interests are rumored to have collected a fund of one million pesos (nearly $20,000) to kill de la Victoria and his colleague, world-renowned environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa, Philippines news outlets have reported. Both de la Victoria and Oposa received numerous threats in recent days.


Photos of Oposa and de la Victoria

Press Release, April 20, 2006

The latest press release regarding this controversy can be found at the PIEL web site:

The boilerplate text follows.



A Harvard-educated lawyer, law professor, and internationally-acclaimed environmental activist in the Philippines—Antonio Oposa, Jr.—has been informed that a bounty of PHP 1,000,000 has been offered for his assassination, as it was for his friend and colleague Elpidio de la Victoria who was assassinated last Thursday, in broad daylight, in front of his wife and son.

Oposa and de la Victoria—who was head of the regional fisheries commission—have been working to halt destructive fishing practices in the Visayan Sea, including illegal commercial fishing encroachments into municipal waters. The Visayan Sea is considered to be the most biological diverse marine area in the world. An off-duty police officer has been arrested as the alleged killer.

The news of the assassination and the continued threats to Oposa have triggered an outpouring of dismay and concern from law professors and conservationists around the world, demanding that the Philippines government ensure Oposa’s safety. This coming Sunday afternoon the public funeral for de la Victoria will be held in Cebu City, posing risks of another attack. The fear is that the civil government of the Philippines is not doing enough to protect the personal security of citizen activists.

In the last 48 hours more than 150 law professors and deans from more than a dozen countries have signed a letter of concern being sent to President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines expressing their “horrified dismay“ at the violence. “It would be,” the petition declares, “a terrible mark upon the international reputation of the rule of law in the Philippines, and a devastating loss for the international legal and environmental communities, if further harm came to these citizen conservationists.”

Read more (PDF)...

Attack on dela Victoria tied to Visayan Seas campaign

Friday, April 14, 2006. From the Sun.Star Cebu:

THE attack on Elpidio dela Victoria may have something to do with the Cebu City official’s role in a campaign to save the Visayan seas, police and his colleagues suspect.

Environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa said that he and dela Victoria received death threats following the campaign to ban commercial fishing operators from the Visayan seas.