Surigao Sur environmentalist fears for life; says mining, logging and politics behind threats

SURIGAO CITY(MindaNews/19 July)—“My life is now becoming harder,” said Chito Trillanes, who for two months now has been hiding in different safe houses afraid that he would be killed.

Trillanes is the spokesperson of the Social Action Center (SAC) in the Vicariate of Carrascal-Cantilan-Madrid-Carmen-Lanuza and Parang Zone (CarCanMadCarLanPar) in Surigao del Sur.

As the SAC spokesperson, he’s been leading the campaign against destructive mining and logging in their area. He believed that leading the campaign earned him the ire of powerful businessmen and politicians in the province.

In the last elections, Trillanes rallied behind several politicians who have the same advocacy with the SAC.

“This advocacy contributed to the victory of anti-mining advocate candidates like Cantilan Mayor Genito Guardo,” he said.

“Suko kayo sila kay napildi man ang ilang mga pro-mining bet (They’re very angry because their pro-mining bets lost during the elections),” Trillanes told MindaNews on the phone Friday.

Trillanes said he has no police or military escort to provide him security.

On Friday, the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. issued a statement saying that on May 24, Trillanes’s mother was awakened by a suspicious noise at their house in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.

When she turned on the light at their veranda, she saw two bonnet-wearing men who rushed to a parked motorcycle and hastily left, it added.

Two months before that happened, Trillanes said he had received information that an influential personality in the province allegedly wants him liquidated.

While he did not give a name, Trillanes said that person “is involved in mining, logging and politics.”

Trillanes said that some of his fellow environmentalists have already been killed, including tribal leader Datu Manuel “Kajugjug” Gardigo, a Manobo chieftain from Barangay Agsam in Lanuza town who was shot five times by still unidentified suspects last May.

He said Gardigo was one of the leaders opposing illegal logging activities particularly in the concession of Surigao Development Corporation.

Another environmental activist, Dr. Isidro Olan, was ambushed in Carmen, Surigao del Sur last October but he survived the slay try. He was wounded by a bullet on the right shoulder.

Olan is the founder and executive director of the Lovers of Nature Foundation based in his hometown. He is an active member of the SAC in the Vicariate of CarCanMadCarLanPar.

Trillanes said the attacks against environmentalists will not deter his campaign against mining and illegal logging activities in the area.

On Monday, the PMPI said it will file a comprehensive report on the harassments being suffered by Trillanes at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

“We believe that the motive behind the harassment on Chito Trillanes has something to do with his advocacy against destructive mining. Its clandestine nature, the fact that the identities of the ones doing the surveillance are yet to be known, further bolster his claim that his life and person are in danger should the surveillance continue. This must be stopped,” Fr. Oliver Castor, PMPI project officer said in the statement.

Castor said that the Mindanao office of the human rights group Task Force Detainees of the Philippines assisted them in finalizing the fact sheet for the case.

He also said that they will submit to the CHR a video of Trillanes explaining his experiences.

“Because of these threats, Trillanes is moving from one safe house to another although he continues to be active in the sidelines for the environmental campaigns of the SAC. No person, especially someone who dedicated his time to the defense of our natural resources, deserves this situation. We fervently hope that the CHR will act swiftly on this case, “ Castor appealed. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)