MANILA – For pioneering the campaign to ban aerial spraying of pesticides, a top toxicologist is facing what advocates call as “harassment complaint.”
Six residents of sitio Kamukhaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur reportedly filed complaints against Dr. Romeo Quijano at the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) for “unprofessionalism.” Quijano is an expert witness in recent congressional hearings on House Bill 3857 seeking to ban aerial spraying of pesticides.
The complaint cited Quijano’s alleged “questionable study” on the adverse health and environmental effects of pesticides on the community, published 16 years ago at the now defunct Philippine Post.
The alliance Resistance and Solidarity Against Agrochem TNCs (RESIST) said the recent complaint is “the fourth in a plethora of banana industry-orchestrated cases filed against Quijano.”
Rafael Mariano, convenor of RESIST and chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), said, “By resurrecting a ‘dead’ case against Dr. Quijano, the banana industry appears hell-bent on making sure that no one gets in the way of their hazardous practices.”
The PRC complaint was filed five years ago against Quijano and members of a Department of Health (DOH) team who corroborated Quijano’s initial findings.
A separate “falsification and libel” suit against Dr. Quijano and the DOH team was also filed in 2010, but dismissed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Nov. 28, 2013.
In his decision, DOJ Prosecutor General Claro A. Arellano reads, “A thorough perusal of the two (2) articles of Dr. Quijano as well as the report of the group of Dr. Dionisio reveals no commission of the crime of falsification under Article 172, in relation to Article 171 (paragraph 3) of the Revised Penal Code. Complainants were not named or identified in the said articles and study report.”
The PRC complaint uses the same basis in the already dismissed falsification and libel suit. It also uses the same complainants who were either intimidated or given favors by Lapanday Development Corp. (Ladeco), according to Quijano’s counter-affidavit.
A separate P12-million libel case and a civil suit were filed against Dr. Quijano and her journalist daughter Ilang-Ilang for the article published in 2000. The libel case was dismissed and the civil suit has been amicably settled.
RESIST demanded that the banana industry “stop resorting to dirty tricks and instead face squarely the issues regarding the health and environmental effects of aerial spraying of pesticides, especially to farmers.”
In 2000, Qujiano, president of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Philippines, identified six hazardous pesticides used by Ladeco in Kamukhaan. Agricultural workers suffered from various illnesses.
In a 2006 study, the DOH found out that 82 percent of respondents from Kamukhaan were indirectly exposed to aerially sprayed pesticides; 52 percent of whom showed symptoms of acute pesticide poisoning. In 2009, the DOH recommended a ban on aerial spraying of pesticides.
Meanwhile, in 2007, due to mounting pressure from various environmental, health and farmers groups, the Davao City council passed a resolution banning aerial spraying. The The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) has effectively stopped the ban by appealing to higher courts. The decision is now pending at the Supreme Court.
The PBGEA has been opposing the bill filed in Congress.
In a statement, the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) also condemned the harassment against Quijano.
The group said that “big business in cahoots with corrupt government officials is pushing for the unbridled expansion of banana plantations in Mindanao to the detriment of agricultural workers.”
Quijano, a retired professor of UP Manila’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, was the co-chair of the International POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants) Elimination Network, bureau member of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, and standing committee member of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety.
He is a recipient of the 2005 Jennifer Altman Award for Science and Public Interest. He has also received an Outstanding Community Service Award from the UP Medical Alumni Society in 2009. (bulatlat.com)
Writer: RONALYN V. OLEA