Subanen leader wounded, son slain in ambush

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/04 September) — A Subanen leader in the anti-logging and anti-mining campaigns in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur survived an ambush attempt early Tuesday morning but his 11-year old son who was with him was killed.

In a statement, the Partnership Forum for Indigenous Peoples Peacebuiliding in Mindanao said unidentified assailants ambushed Timuay Locenio Manda while bringing his son to school.

Manda sustained minor gunshot wounds but his son Jordan,  a Grade 4 student, was killed.

The father and son were riding a motorcycle on their way to school when fired at between barangays Conacon and Bubuan.

Aside from being the village chief of Conacon, the elder Manda has been the head claimant of the Bayog Ancestral Domain since 2002, the year his cousin Timuay Giovanni Umbang was killed.

Like Giovanni, Locenio questioned the entry of logging and mining ventures in their territory without their Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC), the statement said.

Timuay Manda has been receiving threats to his life in the last three years, it added.

Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina said he believes the incident was related to the Subanen chieftain’s stance against mining.

In a text message to his supporters, Timuay Manda said: “In my effort to assert our rights and to protect our people and ancestral domain, my beloved son was sacrificed. It is very painful and I thirst for justice. I vow to continue my struggle in order not to make my son’s death in vain. I need your support in this most trying time of my life as a father and a leader.”

The timuay had groomed Jordan, his eldest son, to follow his footsteps as leader. A Grade 4 student who belonged to the top five of his class, Jordan often accompanied his father to weekend meetings of community leaders where he listened and asked questions afterwards. He sometimes attended educational sessions held by NGOs and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The boy was said to be his grandmother’s favorite, as he showed deep interest in their tribe’s history, music, arts and genealogy.

Timuay Manda’s wife, Delma, said Jordan helped her in tending their rice farm and animals as her husband is busy doing his leadership functions.

Delma, who also hails from a family of timuays, said she knew of the risks of being a leader in their community but that she never expected her son to die this way.

At present, the ancestral domain of the Subanens in Bayog is the subject of eight mining permit applications, three approved Mineral Production Sharing Agreements, one approved exploration permit and numerous illegal small-scale mining operations, the statement noted.

Early in August, Timuay Manda led a group of Timuays from Bayog and neighboring ancestral domains in calling for a moratorium on all forms of mining in their ancestral domains until they could have their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title and Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan, a move backed by the NCIP, it said.

The statement added that the tribal leader, along with Catholic Bishops and other groups had filed a petition for the Writ of Kalikasan to protect the Pinukis Range Forest, “among the last untouched forest regions in the Zamboanga Peninsula which is unfortunately included in the mining claims of several companies.”

“Mt. Pinukis is considered by the Subanen people of Zamboanga Peninsula as among their Sacred Mountains. The Pinukis Range Forest serves as watershed of three major rice-growing regions in the Peninsula that produces about 30 percent of the rice in the region,” it said.

Calls for investigation

“I call on national government agencies such as National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Commission on Human Rights, and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to immediately find the truth. I also call on President Aquino to immediately order a moratorium on all mining activities in the whole Zamboanga Peninsula to prevent further escalation of violence in the area,” Ifugao Congressman Teddy Brawner Baguilat, chair of the House committee on national cultural communities, said.

Baguilat vowed his committee would investigate the incident.

Dr. Nymia Simbulan, executive director of Philippine Human Rights Information Center, and Romel de Vera of Amnesty International also called on government to investigate the ambush. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)