Escalating rights abuses against anti-mining, environmental activists slammed

Nov. 01, 2012

Indigenous peoples’ activists cited 27 cases of extra-judicial killing have occurred under the present administration.

Davao Today

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines —  The Katribu Indigenous Peoples (IP) party-list called on “people’s vigilance” following the frustrated ambush of anti-mining activist and environmentalist Doctor Isidro Olan in Surigao del Sur last October 29.

“We call on indigenous peoples, ancestral land defenders and defenders of the environment to condemn the escalating harassments and killings of anti-mining and environmental activists,” Beverly Longid, Katribu party-list first nominee, said in a statement.

Indigenous peoples’ activists cited 27 cases of extra-judicial killing have occurred under the present administration.

Olan was the executive director of the Lovers of Nature Foundation and an active member of the Caraga Watch, a multi-sectoral group which opposed large-scale mining operations and military operations in the hinterlands of the four Agusan-Surigao provinces, including the Dinagat Islands.

According to Katribu, 1,156 individuals from the indigenous Mamanwa tribe were displaced from their ancestral lands early this year because of military operations.

Police authorities said Olan was on his way home to Carmen, Surigao del Sur with his wife Olive when he alighted from his vehicle to check on logs blocking the road.  It was then that he was shot by unidentified assailants.

Olan survived the ambush with a gunshot wound on his right shoulder and is now recovering in Madrid municipal hospital.

Olan’s October 29 ambush came on the heels of the October 18 massacre of Juvy Capion and his two young sons in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.

Juvy and her husband Dagil Capion belonged to the indigenous Blaan community which opposed the continued intrusion of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI)-Xstrata in their ancestral territories in Davao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.

Two other pro-environment activists Genesis Ambason and Gilbert Paborada were also killed last October 2 and 3 in Agusan del Sur and Cagayan de Oro respectively.

On September 5 this year, timuay (chieftain) Luceno Manda of the indigenous Subanen also survived an ambush by unidentified armed men.  Manda along with his 12-year-old son Jordan were riding a motorcycle when attackers sprayed them with bullets in the village of Conacon in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur.

Manda survived but his son died instantly.  Manda is a consistent anti-mining Subanen leader.  Manda led the group of timuays from Bayog and neighboring ancestral domains calling for the cessation of mining operations in their territories.  His cousin, Giovanni Umbang, was also killed in 2002 in similar circumstances.

Manda was also among of the petitioners in the Writ of Kalikasan (nature) to protect the Pinukis Forest Range in Zamboanga del Sur from mining operations.

Both exploration and mine production operations abound in the ancestral domain of the Subanens in Bayog.

In October last year, Italian missionary Father Fausto Tentorio, PIME was also killed in broad daylight in the compound of the Arakan parish, where he served as parish priest.  Tentorio was known for his unwavering advocacy for IP rights and for the environment.  He was also a consistent critic of the government’s military operations in communities through its Peace and Development Oplan Bayanihan program.

“Like Olan, these community leaders were known for their staunch fight against large-scale mining, agri-plantations, logging and energy projects that pose environmental and cultural hazards to the local communities, both IPs and the settlers,” Longid of Katribu said.

Longid also lambasted the continuing threats on IP leaders slapped with criminal charges ranging from rebellion, murder, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, to arson, among others.

“We can think of no reason behind the killings and attempted killings, and the filing of trumped-up charges against indigenous peoples and their advocates but to scare and terrify them.  It is meant to silence the heightening opposition against these projects and to break the intensifying ancestral land defense,” Longid added.

Katribu recently held a Pinag-aapoy, an indigenous ceremony practiced in Sagada, Mountain Province in Luzon, where pine wood was burned to honor the souls of departed loved ones.

Katribu, together with the National Council of Churches of Philippines, held a Pinag-aapoy in time for All Saints and All Souls Days to honor martyred IPs who fell victims to extra-judicial killings.

In a statement, Kakai Tolentino, a member of the Dumagat indigenous and spokesperson of Katribu called on fellow IPs to honor these martyrs by “emulating their life and sacrifices.”  The group also reiterated calls for justice for the IP victims of extra-judicial killings.

Tolentino cited 27 cases under the two years of President Benigno Aquino III’s administration.

“What is more frustrating about this is that no cases have been solved and the perpetrators continue to roam free,” Tolentino said.  “For as long as the culture of impunity prevails under this administration we will not attain any justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings,” she added.

Tolentino also criticized Aquino’s attitude of denying the existence of human rights violations happening in the country, citing statements made by the President when he visited New Zealand.  In his visit, Aquino dismissed reports on human rights violations in the Philippines as mere cases of propaganda by the “noisy militants.”  The President’s remark earned the ire from different human organizations as well as human right victims.  (Danilda L. Fusilero/

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