SEVERAL tribal groups and nongovernment organizations have taken a unified stand in calling for the speedy investigation of the suspects responsible for the September 13 killing of Cagayan de Oro Higaonon tribal leader Fausto Orasan.
Orasan, 64, who was also popularly known as Datu Sandigan, was shot to death at Sitio Cabalang, Barangay Tuburan, while on his way home to Barangay Pigsag-an.
City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro) chief Edwin Dael said Orasan’s slaying could be due to his staunch stand against illegal mining and logging activities in the city’s hinterland villages.
Dael said he (Orasan) was also an advocate of the eco-tourism project being undertaken by the city government with the participation of the local tribal communities headed by Orasan.
Investigators at Lumbia police said recently they have already identified two persons who they suspect as Orasan’s assailants.
In a statement sent to this paper, the groups said Orasan’s death has not deterred them and has even inspired them from fighting for their cause as indigenous peoples, particularly on issues affecting their existence such as environmental degradation and ancestral domain.
“We, the leaders of the indigenous peoples’ communities of the Higaunon and Subanen tribes gathered in Iligan City, call on the Government of the Philippines, specifically the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate this murder and ensure that justice will be done in the killing of [Datu Sandigan] and perpetrators be brought to justice,” the group said in the statement.
“Even though the Higaunons are peace-loving people, our lives are being threatened and so we are ready to assert and defend our rights against all those who want to destroy our lands and desecrate nature,” said Datu Diamla Rolando Soong of the Higaunon Tribal Council of Iligan City, in the statement.
“As an indigenous tribal leader, asserting our rights over what remains of our ancestral domains and protecting nature, our forests and rivers means a waiting death sentence to us but do we have a choice? To be cowered means the death of our tribe and the many people who will be affected by illegal mining,” said Datu Mampinuhan Norberto Puasan, the Indigenou Peoples’ Mandatory Representative to the local legislature of the Municipality of Opol.
In this time when the indigenous peoples and the majority of the Filipinos are still facing massive corruption, the collusion of police officers with criminals and the failure of the State to protect those who dedicate their life for the cause of human rights and the environment: “We demand that all responsible government agencies will fulfill their duties to prove to us that the State is still working for the rights and welfare of its citizens.”
The statement was signed by Datu Diamla Rolando Soong, Higaunon Tribal Council, Iligan City; Timuay Eliseo Mandih, Secretart CADT 075, Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte; Timuay Perry Tumbale, Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur; Christine Virtucci, Director, Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute, Davao City; Jeffrey Puasan, AD Dulangan, Opol, Misamis Oriental; Datu Mampinuhan Norberto Puasan, Indigenous Peoples’ Mandatory Representative (IPMR) and SB member, Opol, Misamis Oriental; Crishel Guilingan, Timuay Pasandalan, CADT 075, Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte; Doming Tanggana, Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur; Victoria Cajandig, Executive Officer, Pikhumpongan Dlibon Subanen, Inc. (PDSI), Pagadian City; Regina Salvador-Antequisa, Executive, Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits, Inc. (Ecoweb), Tubod, Iligan City.