DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The family members of Jimmy Saypan together with farmers and activists stormed on Tuesday the headquarters of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines here to seek justice for his death.
The Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Comval, a provincial coalition of farmers’ organizations in Compostela Valley, brought the casket of Saypan during the rally.
Carlos Trangia, a council member of Humawac, blamed the Army’s 66th Infantry Batallion as responsible for Saypan’s death. Saypan was a vocal anti-mining advocate and human rights worker.
Trangia said Saypan was one of the farmers who opposed the mining exploration of Agusan Petroleum Mining firm in their community. He installed a barricade last June 2015 along Sitio Nursery, Barangay Ngan, Compostela, Comval.
Last year, Saypan, who was the secretary general of Compostela Farmers Association, told davaotoday.com that men from the Army’s 66th Infantry Battalion conducted a census of what their needs are.
“They eventually told us to let the mining company in as it would bring us jobs to help solve our problems,” Saypan said.
Trangia said Saypan, together with Humawac, “bravely blocked the entry of the mining exploration in their communities.”That until the last drop of his blood, he condemned the military and Agpet.”
In a statement Oct. 12, the 10th Infantry Division of AFP, denied the allegations.
The military, instead, called on the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a group where Humawac and the Compostela Farmers Association is affiliated, to “cooperate with the on-going police investigation of the cowardly killing of Saypan by providing information and evidences to support his allegations against any suspect.”
“We will fully support the on-going police investigation and will make available any of our personnel for the said investigation,” the statement said.
While denying their involvement, Captain Rhyan Batchar, 10th ID’s spokesperson, accused Saypan for having engaged with hydraulic mining, citing an information given by Datu Guillermo Blanco, a chieftain from Compostela town.
“Hydraulic kay bukid siya na imong bungkagon tas pasiritan ug tubig tapos banlason (Hydraulic mining activity is letting the miners destroy the mountain then it will be filled with water and will sweep it),” Batchar said.
He said that he found Saypan’s statement as “contradictory,” pointing out that Saypan, who claimed to be an anti-mining activist, was also part of the small-mining activity in Sitio Sika-A of Barangay Ngan, Compostela.
“Datu Guillermo Blanco confirmed that Saypan was a small-scale miner,” he said.
However, a close kin of Saypan denied Datu Blanco’s claim. Saypan’s relative, who requested anonymity, said that when Saypan was still alive, he urged the small-scale miners in the area to stop the hydraulic mining since it could damage the rivers and mountains.
“Ang involvement ni Jimmy sa hisgutanan sa mining kadtong kabahin sa pag-organisa niya sa small-scale miners ug sa mga mag-uuma bahin sa pagbatok sa large scale diraa na sa Agusan petroleum (Jimmy was involved with mining due to the fact that he organized these small-scale miners and farmers in fighting against the mining company present here which is the Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation),” she said.
She said it was Datu Blanco who requested the military to guard the mining company near their ancestral domain.
She added that several dialogues have been made before the Sangguniang Bayan about their opposition on the large-scale mining with Datu Blanco, but it went unsuccessful.
Engineer Edilberto L. Arreza of Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) explained that hydraulic mining is also known as “greedy mining”.
Arreza, who is also the chairman of City Mines Regulatory Board, said that such practice can soften the soil in the mountains and can cause the soil to go directly to the rivers.
For its part, human rights group, Karapatan in Southern Mindanao, claimed that based on their documentation, the Army is responsible to the killing of Saypan.
“[We] have recorded [cases] of blocking and surveillance to Jimmy,” said Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region Information Officer Jay Apiag.
According to Karapatan, a week before Saypan was killed, there was a dialogue between the military troops and the farmers on the issue of military pull-out from the farmers’ communities.
During the barricade last year, Apiag said the military troops threatened the farmers that “something will happen if they will not stop.”
Saypan is the 17th farmer killed under the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. On Saypan’s last day of wake held at C.M. Recto Street here, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez vowed to bring justice on Saypan’s death.
Saypan’s body was brought in their hometown in Montevista, Comval, and will be buried on Thursday. (davaotoday.com)