An American volunteer with the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was shot four times outside his home in the Ifugao province in the Philippines on Thursday.

Brandon Lee, 37, went into cardiac arrest during attempts to remove a bullet that had lodged in his jaw and remains in critical condition.

The Ifugao province is in the center of Luzon, the Philippines' largest island, and is known for its Banaue Rice Terraces that were carved into the sides of mountains by the ancestors of indigenous people in the region perhaps as much as 2,000 years ago. The IPM stands in opposition to the Quadriver Power Corp.’s mini-hydroelectric power plant project as they say it would harm several hectares of nearby rice fields and vegetable gardens.

Lee is a volunteer paralegal with the group. He also wrote articles for Bulatlat.com that claims to be the “Philippines’s top alternative online news publication."

As early as 2015, Lee and several IPM staff had been tagged “enemy of the state” in posters placed around the province. They were accused of being members of the communist rebel group New People’s Army (NPA), a claim they denied. The allegation can still be seen on social media.

In a 2018 article he wrote, “That according to the IPM, red tagging and vilification is part of the military’s counterinsurgency program dubbed as Oplan Bayanihan. The group said they received reports of rights violations from different communities of Ifugao."

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, another activist human rights group where Lee volunteered has blamed authorities for the attack. They told The Guardian, “We hold accountable the state security forces that the Duterte administration has let loose in the Cordillera region." The group also said that Lee had been receiving threats before the shooting.

Lee is not the first casualty of what appears to be an effort to silence activists fighting to protect the environment. Global Witness (an international Non-Government-Organization or NGO established in 1993) found the Philippines to be the deadliest country in the world for environmental defenders, with 30 environmentalists murdered there in 2018.

According to a Time article, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has notoriously referred to land and environmental activists as communist sympathizers and terrorists in efforts to silence them.