Philippines: B’laan tribal leader gunned down


    WITH THE RECENT announcement by SMI-Xstrata that they were drastically decreasing their current investments in the area, one would have thought that mining related violence would decrease in the area. The opposite is happening. The latest victim: a key leader of indigenous people opposing the mining projects. The alleged perpetrator: the military.

    Yesterday, Anteng Freay, one of the revered B’laan tribal leaders and head claimant of the B’laan ancestral domain in the area claimed by the foreign mining project, was gunned down with his son, Victor Freay, but meters from their house in Bolol Kalon, Brgy Kimlawis, Bong Mal.
    A fact finding mission of the Social Action Council of the Diocese of Marbel this morning found more than 100 empty shells near Anteng Freay’s house alone.
    This contradicts military allegations that the killings were result of an “encounter” between military operatives and the B’laans in a forest area..
    Rene Pamplona of the of the Social Action Committee of the Diocese of Marbel reports further: “Anteng Freay was armed with .22 caliber rifle when he left his house as he was alarmed by his dog that kept on barking. He was just holding his gun and not able to fire it because he had been shot after a few seconds a short distance away. Victor was in his makeshift hut tending to his harvested corn and almost 300 meters away from his fathers’ house. He immediately ran toward his house upon learning of the incident to get his 12 gauge single shotgun but he was not able to get there because he was blocked by the CAFGUs and was shot to death in the middle of the corn field just few meters away from his house in their village.
    “After the shooting of Anteng and Victor by the military/CAFGU an encounter followed between the immediate relatives of Anteng Freay and military under the 39th IB and members of the Task Force KITACO in Bulol Kalon. Another encounter happened in Lafla, Brgy. Kimlawis. The Blaans admitted that their 3 warriors were able to kill 2 soldiers (cannot be determined if they are under the AFP or Task Force KITACO. The encounter were on the Eastern and Western portion of Bong Mal at the same time.”
    Sadly, violence begets violence, death begets.
    The facts show that this was a planned and pre-meditated military operation against a leader of an indigenous people who had dared to oppose the operations of foreign mining operations in their ancestral domain.
    As the country has been scandalized by the corrupt misuse of the Preferential Development Assistance Fund or “pork barrel” in our society through the Napoles scam, we are also jarred by the dastardly misuse of military power. The lives of the poorest of the poor can be cut down by military bullets with apparent impunity.
    While billion-peso scams cause outrage, what can replace the life of a tribal elder murdered by the military?
    It is this alignment of the military with the rich and powerful which drives the people to armed revolutionary groups for protection.
    It is the murder of other-thinking civilians that drives people to believe that the military operates not for the defense of the Filipino people but for the defense of foreign interests.
    It is in the interests of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the murderers of Anteng and Victor Freay be brought to justice. I am certain, reform-minded military who defend the “daan na matuwid” will agree.
    As the politicians rid themselves of pork barrel, let the military barrel point away from the innocent and protect the Filipino citizen in the exercise of inalienable rights.
    By Father Joel Tabora, SJ