PNP files charges vs 37 anti-mining advocates

KALIPUNAN ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) lambasted the rebellion and criminal cases filed against 37 Manobo indigenous peoples in Surigao del Sur.

“This is clear political harassment. The indigenous peoples charged with these crimes are being persecuted for their political affiliation, especially their stance against large-scale mining in their ancestral lands,” Piya Macliing Malayao, KAMP spokeperson said.

The Manobos are members of indigenous peoples organization Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu, Persevering Struggle for Next Generation.) It is working in indigenous communities in the municipalities of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag, and Tago in Surigao del Sur.

According to religious organization Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-region (RMP-NMR.), the 37 leaders and members of Mapasu are charged with rebellion, frustrated murder, arson, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and malicious mischief based on complaints filed by the Philippine National Police in connection with the communist New People’s Army attack on Lianga Police Station last year.

KAMP described the case as a SLAPP suit, or a strategic lawsuit against public participation. “There is certainly no merit to the case. It is meant to inconvenience, threaten and harass,” Malayao claimed.

“It is absurd that these leaders, who have been active in community affairs and are exposed in open, legal struggles are being branded as armed rebels. Their only similarity with the NPA is that they are against environmental degradation, plunder, and displacement caused by large-scale mines” Malayao added. Mapasu is a member of KAMP.

Mapasu have gained the ire of State forces since its establishment in 2005, Malayao shared. It has campaigned actively against the encroachment of foreign-funded large-scale mines in the copper and gold-rich Manobo ancestral lands; and they are also very vocal on the human rights violations done by deployed military forces in the area.

“Mapasu has filed several complaints of human rights violations against different units of the Philippine Army deployed in different indigenous communities in Surigao del Sur. This cases are filed in an attempt to silence them,” Malayao claimed.

Mapasu filed complaints about the human rights violations attributed to AFP elements in the forced evacuation of 19 communities due to heavy combat operations waged in the communities, and the enforced disappearance of four Lumads.

“The armed forces are quick to file complaints against the indigenous peoples who fight for their rights, but are painfully slow and in making themselves accountable for the numerous crimes they have done against the people,” Malayao said.

A few weeks ago, a young Lumad anti-mining activist in Agusan del Sur was tortured and slain allegedly by members of the CAFGUs (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) of the 26th Infantry Battalion headed by Artemio Sublidan last September 13, 2012. Ambason is the 18th extrajudicial killing of indigenous peoples since Aquino took power in 2010.

“Vilification, trumped up charges, human rights violations, and killings are geriatric tactics of the State and military to silence their critics,” Malayao said.

“But they will not succeed in making the people believe that they are the champions of people’s rights. Mapasu, and other organizations working towards genuine development and defenders of peoples’ rights are undaunted by these harassments and violations,” Malayao said.

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