Disband the paramilitary groups – NZ group

IT APPEARS that with Pres. Aquino’s expansion and strengthening of the Special CAFGU Auxiliary Action (SCAA) to protect operations of mining firms, state security forces have become more emboldened to intimidate, torture and kill Filipino indigenous leaders who stand at the forefront of anti-mining campaigns in the communities targeted by big mining firms.”

Thus was the statement of Auckland Philippines Solidarity (APS) as it expressed alarm over the wave of killings of indigenous peoples in the Philippines. APS cited the case of of horrific torture and killing of Genesis Ambason last September 13 in Brgy. Binikalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, Mindanao. According to a report from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao, the 23 year-old secretary general of grassroots indigenous organisation Tagdumahan sustained two gunshot wounds each in his right chest and hip, with wounds on each side of his spine and dark bruises in his face and chest.

“When Pres. Aquino comes to New Zealand on 22nd October, we wish to challenge him to immediately revoke Executive Order 546, a decree legitimizing the use of civilian military groups that have in fact been involved in a number of extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples and advocates including Italian missionary Fr. Faustino “Pops” Tentorio. We urge Pres. Aquino to dismantle all paramilitary groups such as the notorious Bagani group which seriously threatens the lives of civilians including Fr. Peter Geremia, chairperson of the Justice for Fr. Pops Movement,” APS asserted.

Ambason’s 8-month pregnant wife, wept while cleaning his husband’s body due to her discovery of brutal torture marks. Aside from having multiple gunshot wounds, Ambason has lost all his teeth and his head became soft, smaller, and unrecognizable. Witnesses, the companions of Ambason who survived the attack on that day, point to the paramilitary group under the 26th Infantry Battalion as the perpetrators.  Ambason’s community organisation was at the forefront of campaigns against Malampay Mining, Tambuli Mining and the Makilala Mining. Aladino ‘Datu Mansubaybay’ Badbaran, chair of Tagdumahan was also killed by the paramilitary in 2009.

“We’re very disappointed that such killings continue especially as the victims are our indigenous brothers in the Philippines. We stand in solidarity with our Filipino indigenous sisters and brothers in their struggles against the plunder of their ancestral domain by numerous foreign mining firms including the New Zealand and Australia-controlled OceanaGold Mining,” Helen Te Hira, member of APS stated.

Te Hira, a Maori (indigenous people of NZ) anti-mining advocate says the Philippines, New Zealand and other countries with large-scale mining activities must find ways of creating jobs that don’t damage Papatuanuku (the land). In the Māori world view, land gives birth to all things, including humankind, and provides the physical and spiritual basis for life.

APS also received report about the death of the son of indigenous leader Lorencio Manda in the morning of September 4 in Bayog town, Zamboanga peninsula, Mindanao. Lorencio was targeted by assassins most likely because he led the anti-mining campaigns in his community. His son Jordan got the fatal shots. APS was again alarmed by the latest report that Gilbert Paborada, leader of indigenous people’s organization calling for the pull-out of oil palm expansion of A. Brown in Opol, Misamis Oriental, Mindanao was shot dead on 3rd October.

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