MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/20 October) – Like in the case of Fr. Tullio Favali, who was gunned down in 1985, the killing of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio will put a black mark on the Philippine government in the eyes of the international community. Government critics, especially the militant groups, will appear justified in saying that if a priest can be murdered, there’s more reason for unknown anti-mining and anti-militarization advocates to be afraid. Nobody is safe. That would be the ready conclusion, a perception that can only be countered by bringing the assailants and the mastermind(s) to justice.
Failure on the part of government to get to the bottom of the incident would not only have adverse effects on its image. It would also make the mining industry – a pet sector of the Aquino administration – appear as a major villain in the unfolding showdown with groups and communities opposed to mining. Fearing a backlash on the industry’s image, the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines immediately issued a statement declaring that none of its members was operating in North Cotabato and urged caution against rushing into conclusions.
Unfortunately for the mining industry, unless and until police may find other possible motives for his death, the belief that Fr. Tentorio was killed for his anti-mining campaign will persist. That there are no mining operations or applications in North Cotabato as claimed by the Chamber of Mines is no reason to dismiss this theory. News reports that cited the Chamber’s statement did not mention that the Diocese of Kidapawan has joined the Dioceses of Marbel and Digos in a signature campaign against the Sagittarius Mines Inc., whose mining venture covers the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.
True, as the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines said, Fr. Tentorio’s murder “cannot incontrovertibly be laid at the feet of large-scale mining activities in Mindanao” at this point, although his advocacy is a “possible, if not probable, cause”. It would be unfair to accuse any particular mining firm or its officials of having ordered the priest’s death. However, it is possible that groups or individuals who fear they have much to lose if a mining venture does not push through were the ones who sent those killers on that tragic Monday morning. It did not matter that Fr. Tentorio was not assigned in a place where there was supposedly no actual mining claims. He became a target because he was a high-profile anti-mining advocate, and his death was meant as a warning to others.
Fr. Tentorio’s death as well as the deaths of lesser known anti-mining activists has proved dire warnings that mining ventures – particularly of the kind controlled by multinational companies and implemented without regard for people’s rights – will only sow divisions, violence and conflicts. This is the ultimate moral responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the mining industry as a whole even if they may not own the finger that squeezed the trigger. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])