Fight vs illegal logging eyed as motive in murder of Lanuza tribal leader

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/04 May) –The killing of a tribal leader in Lanuza, Agusan del Sur could have been triggered by his fight against illegal logging activities in a forest reserve in the locality, police said.

Initial reports from the Provincial Police Office based in Tandag, Surigao del Sur revealed that one of the possible motives in the killing of Manobo tribal chieftain Manuel Gardigo “could be personal grudge and retaliatory acts” from people he may have crossed path with in fighting illegal logging activities.

Gardigo, known also as Datu Kajug-jug, was shot by three unidentified gunmen at around 2:30 a.m. Thursday while on the way home from the wake of a neighbor-cousin.

Police Officer 2 Charlemagne Salang, of the Surigao provincial police office, said that the 63-year old victim was shot five times using a .45 caliber handgun 50 meters away from his house.

Gardigo was chair of Kalasag, a Manobo tribal organization active in the local fight against illegal logging. His group is also opposing the logging concession of Surigao Development Corp. that also covers the towns of Carmen and Tago, also in Surigao del Sur.

Salang said that initial police investigations linked the tribal chieftain’s murder to his long-standing involvement in the campaign against illegal logging activities in the area.

Green Mindanao Association, Inc., a partner non-government organization of Kalasag, and the province-wide Kahugpungan ng mga Manobo ug Mamanwa (KATRIMMA), said in a statement that the slain chieftain had revealed to a friend in April “that his group apprehended an illegal logging operation allegedly run by a councilor in the area.”

Green Mindanao, which is also conducting a separate investigation on the killing, disclosed that prior to Gardigo’s death, he went to Tandag City to process some documents for a project involving the government’s National Greening Program.

He also reportedly signed a check amounting to P1.4 million on the same day and will encash it together with a KATRIMMA representative on May 2.

Nokie Calunsag, Green Mindanao spokesperson, said they are looking into the possibility that the grudge the police believed may have triggered the murder was caused by the group’s plan to implement systems or practices that will stop illegal logging activities in their area.

Gardigo’s daughter Aida challenged authorities to conduct a deeper investigation and immediately bring to jail those behind the murder.

“We want justice for the killing of my father, we love our father so much as we know his good performance to our fellow indigenous peoples…The people who did this showed no mercy,” she said in a statement.

Our family believed that hired assassins killed him “because the shooting incident was very clean and calculated,” she added. (Vanessa Almeda/MindaNews)