The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) pays respect and honor the memory of three Lumad environmental, anti-mining, and pro-people development advocates – Dionel Campos, MAPASU chairperson, a local lumad organization of Manobo communities, his cousin Aurelio Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood (Alcadev). They worked towards developing an alternative economy in indigenous communities affected by the large-scale extractive mining industry in Surigao del Sur.
We join the widespread condemnation against the paramilitary group Magahat, formed and armed by no less than the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, for the ruthless killings. The massacre brought the death toll of environmental advocates and anti-mining activists into 49, most of whom were killed either by the military, paramilitary groups and private security forces, under President Benigno Aquino. We express strong indignation for the harassment and death threats against other Lumads whom the military accuse of supporting communist fighters. At least 3,000 Lumads were forced to evacuate from their community to Tandag City. This added to the series of human rights violations committed by the military and paramilitary groups against indigenous people in Mindanao.
What we see through this recent incident in Surigao del Sur, and last month’s harassment of hundreds of Manobo refugees in Davao City, is a systematic oppression against indigenous people in Mindanao who are resisting destructive corporate mining and protecting their rights to land and life. Mindanao, where majority of mining projects in the Philippines are located, is rapidly being turned into a killing field of indigenous people, where 60 percent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) combat troops are presently and largely deployed in mining affected indigenous communities.
We are dismayed for the blatant indifference and inaction of President Aquino over the killing of Campos, Sinzo and Samarca. We cannot comprehend how he can sleep at night knowing that his mining policies and counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan have led to unabated human rights violations, most especially in Mindanao. We challenge President Aquino to uphold the people’s rights against the corporate interest of large-scale mining companies in the Philippines and the oppressive conduct of the military. We wish to remind him that his duty as president is to see that the people’s rights prevail, and it is part of his obligation as a Christian to protect the integrity of God’s creation from human greed and capitalist gain, and to safeguard the life of our people from destruction and death.
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente strongly believes that it is a matter of faith for the Church to support the struggle of indigenous people opposing destructive large-scale mining operations and the militarization of their ancestral communities. Theirs is the right to resist oppression and exploitation; theirs is the right to fight for their life and legitimate rights, and we give them our strongest solidarity in their struggle. Together, we must put a stop to the killings of indigenous peoples and punish the perpetrators.
We, therefore, join the people’s demand for President Aquino (1) to pull out the military and paramilitary groups from mining-affected indigenous communities in Mindanao, and cause the permanent dismantling of paramilitary groups and private armies throughout the country (2) to repeal existing mining policies such as Executive Order 79 and the Mining Act of 1995 which render indigenous communities vulnerable to natural disasters, and which provides the reason for the militarization of indigenous communities, and (3) the arrest and prosecution of Magahat paramilitary forces and their superiors in the 36th IBPA to render justice to the murder of Campos, Sinzo and Samarca, and to many more indigenous people who were killed in opposition to large-scale extractive mining in Mindanao and other parts of the country.
Let everyone pray and work for justice to prevail.