2 years later, still no case filed vs suspects in killing of anti-mining activist

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/9 March) – The wheels of justice for the family of the slain anti-mining activist Eliezer “Boy” S. Billanes did not even grind for the crime that happened exactly two years ago today, his wife lamented.

“There’s no case filed against the suspects,” Emelia Billanes said as family members and friends of the slain militant leader lighted candles and offered prayers at his gravesite.

Later at the site where Billanes was gunned down on March 9, 2009, activists from Bayan Muna and Karapatan launched a lightning protest where they urged authorities to solve the murder case.

Billanes was gunned down in broad daylight in a crowded street beside the city public market, a short walk away from the local police headquarters. He was shot by a masked suspect who fled on a motorcycle driven by a cohort against the one-way traffic.

Emelia believed that her husband was a victim of extrajudicial killing and that he was murdered due to his anti-mining stance.

“I’m dismayed with the way things are going, there’s no progress. It seems that authorities are not doing what they ought to do,” Emelia said of the investigation conducted by the authorities.

Billanes, 46, was a staunch critic of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), a foreign-backed firm pursuing the development of the massive Tampakan copper-gold project.

He was the chairman of the Coalition of Anti-Mining Movement and the Soccsksargends-Agenda, short for the South Cotabato, [North] Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos, Davao del Sur – Alliance for Genuine Development.

He was also executive director of the Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Timug Kutabato; a trustee of the Coalition of Social Development Organization of South Cotabato; and an active member of the local government development committees of Koronadal and the province of South Cotabato. He was also a founding member of the South Cotabato People’s Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy.

Billanes was the 2009 Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan awardee, an award given by the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines, a non-government organization founded in 1989 through the initiatives of organizations representing fisher folk, farmers, indigenous peoples, women, urban poor, and the professional sectors.

The Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan Awards was created to give recognition to individuals and organizations for leading environmental struggles and advocacies and contributing to environmental protection and justice.

Sagittarius Mines general manager Mark Williams has denied the company was behind the killing of Billanes.

“SMI wishes to confirm that the company has no connection to the death of Mr. Billanes. Any allegations linking SMI to this incident are totally untrue and without any basis in fact,” Williams said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)