DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 Apr) – As small miners grieved over the loss of an anti-mining activist killed in Pantukan, Compostela Valley Wednesday, a labor foundation blamed the inaction of President Benigno Aquino III over the extrajudicial killings to have encouraged the culture of impunity in the country.
“The blame for Ricky Manrique’s death falls squarely on the shoulder of President Aquino for not taking concrete steps to punish the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings,” said Emma Ricaforte, executive director of the Nonoy Librado Development Foundation (NLDF).
Manrique, 49, was having dinner in his house in barangay Kingking in Pantukan when unidentified men shot him in front of his grandson and wife 6 p.m. last Tuesday.
He was the sixth victim of extrajudicial killings in Southern Mindanao and the 44th in the country under the Aquino administration, said Hanimay Suazo, the deputy secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao.
“Until we see proof that the number of deaths and other human rights violations are going down and that perpetrators are being punished, we will consider this administration’s proclamations cheap talk,” Ricarforte said.
The police said Manrique sustained multiple gunshot wounds in the head and back but said they could not find a motive for the mining leader’s death.
But the human rights group Karapatan said Manrique has been actively campaigning against foreign, large-scale and open pit mining in Pantukan. He also opposed the entry of Napnapan Mineral Resources, Inc. (NMRI), which acquired 4,912 hectares in the area, affecting small scale miners in Boringot, Biasong and Diat.
Manrique also actively campaigned against mining firm Nationwide Development Corporation (Nadecor), which has inked a partnership with US-based firm Russel Mining and Minerals for the mining activities within the 1,663-hectare area covered by their Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) permit.
Franchie Buhayan, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Southern Mindanao, urged authorities to promptly investigate the killing.
Manrique, a barangay kagawad of Napnapan, was also a convenor of the Save Pantukan Alliance, an environment group fighting off the mining operations of the US-based mining company Russel Mining and Minerals and Nadecor. The campaign started off in March this year, said Francis Morales, the secretary-general of the environment group Panalipdan.
“We express our deepest sympathy to the family of Ricky Manrique and to the rest of the small scale mining community in Pantukan,” said Morales.
“Over the years, Manrique actively took part in the small scale miners’ struggle against the entry of large scale and foreign mining corporations in Pantukan,” he said.
Manrique was a member of Anakpawis, a council member of Compostela Valley Federation of Small Scale Miners. He was also the chair of Panalipdan in Pantukan, the president of Boringot Small Scale Mining Cooperative, and the chairperson of Federation of Miners Aggrupation in Pantukan (FedMap).
“Ricky Manrique took part in the campaign against the takeover of large-scale and foreign mining in Pantukan. FEDMAP also allied with other groups in the past and successfully ousted Toronto Ventures Inc. from Brgy. Kingking,” said Belen Galleto, coordinator of Save Pantukan Alliance. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)