Subanen leaders call on PNoy to rid Zambo Peninsula of paramilitary, private armies

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 7 Sept) – Leaders of the Subanen tribe, timuays and baes all, from the Zamboanga Peninsula are calling on President Benigsno Simeon Aquino III to help them rid their communities of paramilitary personnel and private armies of mining companies following the ambush attempt on a tribal leader actively opposing mining and logging activities.

While Timuay Lucenio Manda survived the ambush in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur last Tuesday with only minor injuries, his 11-year-old son Jordan, who was being groomed to succeed him, died.

“Our hearts are burning for justice. Thus, we ask President PNoy and other authorities to take all proper measures in identifying and apprehending perpetrators of this terrible crime,” said Bae Marjorie Paulin, who heads an association of Subanen women, as she read a statement from the Subanen and Higaonon tribes.

“We raise our voices together, knowing that if we do not, this situation will be ignored and forgotten,” said Paulin.

The Partnership Forum in Indigenous People’s Peacebuilding in Mindanao also called for the immediate demobilization of alleged 617 private and irregular security forces in Bayog. PFIPPM documented in March the presence of excessive numbers of security forces which the group said outnumbered the combined forces of the military and the police in the area.

About 30 Subanen leaders from the Zamboanga Peninsula are gathered here in Iligan today for a conflict transformation seminar as scholars of Conflict Resolution Skills and Facilitation Enhancement Training of Resource-based Conflict and Peace-building Program of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation Philippines (MPIFP).

Manda was supposedly one of the 30 Subanen and Higaonon leaders and scholars undergoing an 18-month training to “build the capacity of tribal leaders in holistic and transformative engagement regarding complex business ventures in their ancestral domain, particularly mining and other extractive industries.”

“Had the attack not occurred, Manda is with us for this training; instead, he is planning for the burial of his eldest son,” the group said.

“We vehemently condemn the brutal killing of Jordan and the attempted murder of his father,” said Timuay Isis Guilingan from Sindangan, Zamboanga del Sur

He warned that if the ambush is not acted upon by the government, there will be more Jordans and Lucenios who will be murdered for standing up to their rights.

Although the timuays are yet waiting for more evidence to surface, they have strong suspicion that this is related to Manda’s strong position to prioritize the application of Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) and the development of their land use through Ancestral Domain Sustainable and Protection Plan (ADSDPP) before mining companies should be allowed to operate within their ancestral domain claim.

Vicky Cajandig, a Subanen leader and also a member of Amnesty International (AI), shared that policemen have already conducted investigation at the crime scene and the local government has also called for a meeting to discuss the incident.

“But we are yet to know specific suspects and the reason why they made this crime,” she said.

Paulin told MindaNews that Manda is not in good terms with some Subanens in the community who favor mining operation in Bayog.

Carino Antequisa, of the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development and MPIFP partner, explained to media that most of the ancestral domains of the lumads are covered with Mineral Production Sharing applications and one Financial Technical Agreement Assistance (FTAA) of the mining companies.

Jeremy Simons, an American who has devoted his works for conflict transformation through MPIFP, said that the incident only highlights the importance and urgency of finding non-violent, culturally sensitive, appropriate and effective means of resolving conflicts in the communities.

The PFIPPM, in a statement, asked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to empower the lupong tagapamayapa to investigate human rights violations in the barangay and immediately activate independent human rights action centers in all barangays in Bayog. (Violeta M. Gloria / MindaNews)