House sets probe of cases vs anti-mining activists in Zambo Sur

GINABOT, Midsalip , Zamboanga del Sur (MindaNews/01 February) — The committee on indigenous peoples of the House of Representatives will conduct an inquiry into the cases filed against anti-mining activists in Zamboanga del Sur, a church lay leader said.

Daniel Castillo, executive director of DCMI (Dipolog, Iligan, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Ipil and Marawi Committee on Mining Issues) said committee chair Rep. Ted Baguilat will hold the investigation in Manila on February 14 with residents of Midsalip town.

Castillo said the inquiry was prompted by the civil and criminal cases filed by MSSON Mining and Exploration Corp (MMEC) against two priests, a Peruvian missionary nun and seven residents for picketing the firm’s exploration site in Mount Tandasag.

MMEC executive Frank Real filed civil and criminal complaints against Columban priest Sean Martin, Fr. Arsenio Marane of Pagadian City, Peruvian missionary sister Patricia Andonaire, Paulino Alecha Sr., Manuela Pateno, Felix Unabia, Mario Catanes, Ricardo Tolino, Jesus Catamco, and Wilma Tiro.

Real filed the civil case seeking a “writ for preliminary injunction with temporary restraining order” at the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 in Aurora town. He filed a separate criminal complaint at the Pagadian City Court against Catanes, Tero and Andonaire for allegedly harassing MMEC’s exploration team.

In his complaint, the company official alleged that the three accused together with other persons used force and intimidation in trying to stop the transport of MMEC equipment in Barangay Sigapud, Midsalip, on October 5 last year.

But Fr. Martin said that the complaints were false “since we were not there when the picket started in October.”

For her part, Andonaire said the picket was peaceful and the protesters did not harm the equipment and company workers.

MMEC holds a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) signed by Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region-9 director Constancio A. Paye Jr. which covers 567 hectares. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)