Mindanao delegates ‘storm’ congress, mining companies
Tuesday’s session was attended by Congressman Arnulfo Go of Sultan Kudarat, who chairs the committee together with Representatives Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party, Nancy Catamco of the second District of Cotabato, Florencio Flores of Bukidnon second District and House Deputy Majority Leader Daisy Avance-Fuentes of South Cotabato.
By ALEX D. LOPEZ
MANILA, Philippines — As super typhoon ‘Pablo’ wreaked havoc in Mindanao Island on Tuesday, delegates of “Manilakbayan” (Journey to Manila) made its own “storm” at the House of Representatives and the main offices of large-scale mining companies here.
Dulping Ogan, secretary-general of Kalumaran (Alliance of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao), led the delegates to congress and urged Mindanao solons to institute legislative measures to end the killing of environmental defenders and the harassment of indigenous leaders allegedly done by the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Ogan said the Aquino administration wants to downplay the actual human rights situation in Mindanao in order not to repel the entry of foreign and large-scale mining.
“IP (Indigenous peoples) and environment defenders and peasant leaders have been brutally murdered, some are being suppressed by the military, yet, the Aquino government is doing nothing to end these forms of human rights violations,” Ogan lamented.
Tuesday’s session was attended by Congressman Arnulfo Go of Sultan Kudarat, who chairs the committee together with Representatives Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), Nancy Catamco of the second District of Cotabato, Florencio Flores of Bukidnon second District and House Deputy Majority Leader Daisy Avance-Fuentes of South Cotabato.
Rep. Avance-Fuentes moved that her office would conduct a separate investigation on the matter in aid of legislation. The solon also pledged to help facilitate the travel of the surviving children of one of the victims, Juvy Capion, while the children are undergoing psychological therapy.
Of the soldiers involved in the massacre, Avance-Fuentes said they were not able to differentiate the interest of the country of which they are ought to serve and the interests of the mining company. She said soldiers are supposed to protect the interest of the country, they being its armed forces. Those involved in the massacre, she said, failed to realize that it’s the country’s interest they should protect, first and foremost, and not the mining company’s interests.
Meanwhile, GWP Representative Luz Ilagan also shared with the committee some points raised during the recent investigation conducted by the House Committee on Human Rights in Davao.
Among those she presented were the key issues on the death of Italian Priest Fausto Tentorio and the presence of militias, mostly IPs, in Southern Mindanao and the allegation that these groups were organized and armed by the AFP.
Katribu vice chairperson and second nominee Genasque Enriquez was also present during the session and presented to the solons the situation of environmental activists and IP leaders whose lives have been imperiled due to the fictitious cases filed against them by the military.
Among the cases presented by Enriquez was that of Datu Jalandoni Campos who already has a standing warrant of arrest.
“These IP leaders and environmental defenders are only advocating in defense of their lands against the entry of large-scale mining yet their rights are being violated through these fake cases. These are intentionally done to scare them,” Enriquez told the committee.
But committee chair Representative Arnulfo Go clarified to ‘Manilakbayan’ delegates that Mindanao Affairs is not among the regular committees of the House of Representatives. He said the immediate action that he could do on the issues presented is to refer them to concerned representatives from Mindanao.
He also urged his fellow solons to institute legislative measures on the issues raised by the delegates and submit them to the pertinent committees.
In a separate activity on December 4, other ‘Manilakbayan’ delegates trooped to the offices of Sagitarius Mines, Inc (SMI).-Xstrata, the Toronto Ventures Inc. and Russel Mines in a series of picket-rallies to convey their continued opposition to large-scale mining.
SMI-Xstrata intends to operate in thousands of lands, including ancestral domains of the Blaan tribe in the provinces of South Cotabato and Davao del Sur. Various groups accuse the company of masterminding the brutal murder of Capion and her two young children.
TVI operates in Siocon in the province of Zamboanga del Norte while Russel Mines is in Davao region, particularly in Compostela Valley. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)