MANILA, Sept. 9, 2012—Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick S. Pabillo asked the Aquino government to immediately order a halt to the spate of killings of environmental defenders, the latest of which was the attempted killing of an indigenous peoples’ leader in Zamboanga Peninsula last September 4.
Pabillo, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (CBCP – Nassa), in a statement said, the ambush of Timuay Lecenio Manda, which resulted to the death of his 11 year-old son, Jordan, is deplorable and inhuman.
Manda, a strong anti-mining advocate and a respected Subanen chieftain was on his way to school, with the boy, when the incident happened.
“We are alarmed with the incident. We believe that the attack is not an isolated one and, like other cases of environmental defenders who offered their lives to protect mother earth, it merits the immediate action of the national government, to stop further violence and impunity, especially in areas where the environment is under threat by exploitative and environmentally-destructive operations which are insensitive to people’s right,” Pabillo said.
“We understand that Timuay Manda is only claiming and protecting their rights on the ancestral domain of his Subanen tribe: he questioned the entry of logging and mining operations without Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as required under the law; he led his fellow IPs in neighboring ancestral domains in calling for moratorium of all forms of mining until they get their official ancestral domain claims; and together with local Catholic Bishops and concerned groups, he joined filing petition for the Writ of Kalikasan in protection of the Pinukis Range Forest, which is now included in mining claims of several companies. The petition aimed at protecting their sacred mountain and watershed of three major rice-growing regions in the Peninsula that produces 30% of rice in the region,” the prelated furthered.
He also said that it is very disheartening to note that the area has been open to exploitation as there were eight mining permit applications, three approved Mining Production Sharing Agreements (MPSA), one approved Exploration Permit and many small-scale mining operations.
“More so, those who protect the area, like Timuay Manda and his supporters, have been receiving threats in the past three years for their opposition to destructive mining industries,” the bishop lamented.
Pabillo also noted that threats to life are becoming very common to those who “care for the earth.”
“IP leaders and defenders, especially those fighting for their rights against environmental destruction, mining operation, logging and land grabbing, are targets of persecution and attacks. We call upon our people to rally behind Timuay Manda’s effort to assert and protect the rights of Subanen tribe and their ancestral domain. Let not the death of his son be without meaning,” he explained.
Nevertheless, the Manila bishop has also called upon President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to “heed the call of the anti-mining advocates for a moratorium on all mining operations in the country until a new alternative mining law is passed.”
“We also call for prompt and honest investigation on the crime in this issue by local police to bring the perpetrators to justice. Likewise, we call for the immediate and impartial investigation at the national level to seek the truth and bring out the masterminds of this senseless killing to face the consequence of this demonic act in order to end the cycle of violence and impunity in this trend. We urge the President and government officials, as a state obligation, to protect human rights, especially environmental defenders who are merely protecting their inherent right against destructive mining and logging operations,” Pabillo said. [Noel Sales Barcelona/CBCPNews]