Military ‘colluding’ with mining firms against Lumads?

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Demonstrators hold images of Lumad leaders killed in Mindanao during a protest outside the House of Representatives in Quezon City, 8 Sept. 2015. (Photo: RMP)

MANILA, Sept. 15, 2015— A Catholic diocese said the government needs to get to the bottom of the alleged military harassment and killings of indigenous peoples in Mindanao— mining.

The Diocese of Tandag said only communities of Lumads who are fighting against mining were the ones “being hounded and intimidated” by a paramilitary militia group operating in Surigao del Sur.

In a pastoral statement, the diocese firmly believes the violence against Lumads is something “that has been extensively planned.”

After all, it said, there are strong allegations that the military “are in collusion” with big mining companies that would like to expand their operations in Surigao del Sur.

“Our indigenous peoples who, ever since, have been one with nature, have lived in and survived out of their land of heritage, are now victims of those who are hungry of and greedy for power and wealth,” part of the statement read.

The diocese lamented that Lumads who are the “heroes” in protecting the environment are now the ones in need “of our combined and continuing support.”

The church officials reiterated its call on the government to stop prioritizing supposed development projects at the expense of indigenous peoples’ rights.

“We all strongly condemn the terrorization, harassments, and the killings of our Lumad brothers and sisters as well as denounce the root cause of it all,” they said.

The church leaders also reiterated its appeal to local authorities to dismantle the  “notorious” Magahat-Bagani force tagged in the killings of Lumad leaders.

Last January, an agreement was reached during a “peace dialogue” between religious groups and the local authorities to disarm and abolish the militia group.

It was also agreed that a case will be filed against the Magahat-Bagani group in accordance with the due process of law.

According to the diocese, the responsibility to implement what had been agreed upon was given to the PNP and AFP to resolve the situation.

“Sadly, until now, the problem has not been solved,” the church officials said.

“Like all of us, the Lumads have human rights as well. Let us therefore give them the justice that they deserve,” they added. (R. Lagarde / CBCPNews) 

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