Philippines: Int’l mission investigates paramilitary killings in San Fernando


    Int’l mission investigates paramilitary killings in San Fernando, lingering rights violations after death of Liguyon 18 November 2012, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon–“We are concerned of the fact that despite the warrant of arrest against Alde Salusad and his group NIPAR (New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform) has been out, no serious operations have been made to seize him,” said Beverly Longid of the Katribu Indigenous Peoples’ Partylist. Longid is among the more than 200 individuals who come from local and international human rights organizations that convened the ‘International Solidarity Mission in Defense of Indigenous Communities Fighting Impunity’ or ISM that kicked-off yesterday at Philtown Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City, and travelled to this city to join indigenous peoples of Matigsalog tribe that were displaced from various parts of the village of Dao in San Fernando town, Bukidnon.

    The Matigsalogs, accounting to 30 families encompassing around 150 individuals, are crammed inside makeshift tents in front of the Bukidnon provincial capitol to evade threats and harassments in their communities courtesy of Salusad’s group. “Noting that this is the second wave of displacement of the indigenous communities of San Fernando after the death of village Jimmy Liguyon, and that Salusad was never held accountable after the killing, impunity is no doubt the name of the game in this part of the world,” said Richard Gadit, human rights advocacy officer of the Thailand-based Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP). Liguyon, village chieftain of Dao, was killed by Salusad in front of his family on March 5 this year after he refused to sign the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) peddled by the latter. The CADT encompasses 52,000 ha of the Matigsalog tribe in San Fernando. Among the extractive companies now operating in San Fernando is that of San Cristo mining, exploring more than 13,000 ha of Matigsalog lands. San Cristo is an associate of Indophil Resources, which in turn is a partner of the controversial company SMI-Extrata operating in Tampakan, South Cotabato. After the death of Liguyon, harassments against the community were of no let-up. Cases of NIPAR-sponsored torture and indiscriminate firing against the community to force them to support the CADT were recorded. In the course of interviewing the victims today, Atty. Jarley Sulay-Trugillo of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) unearthed at least two other people killed by NIPAR. “The Matigsalogs failed to file cases against the perpetrators for fear of reprisals. There is no rule of law in San Fernando!” said Trugillo. The mission will interview the victims and key informants which will then be consolidated and subjected to participatory analysis soon after. The mission organizers plan to use the resulting documentation for filing appropriate charges against the culprits, and for information dissemination and policy advocacy. The findings will also be submitted to the different local agencies including local and international bodies like the Asian Inter-Governmental Human Rights Commission and the UN, and to various foreign consulates in the Philippines, together with the demand to investigate on violations on the human rights situation in San Fernando. Mission member Ngach Samin from the group Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association said, “it is a great opportunity to show solidarity to the displaced Lumads. I will bring these human rights cases in my country for support.” Mission participants will also extend medical and psychosocial services to the displaced community in between solidarity programs and exchanges of cultural presentations and solidarity messages. Jomorito Goaynon of Kalumbay says that government inaction has compelled their organization to bring up the case of the IPs in San Fernando to the international community. “What is evident after months of tireless campaigning is that the culprits seem invulnerable. Aside from local resistance, an international pressure is needed to put a criminal like Alde Salusad behind bars and break the culture of impunity in San Fernando and elsewhere” says Goaynon. On October 7, 2012, Salusad, in a pathetic attempt to pressure the displaced Matigsalogs to come back to sitio Kiranggol, took hostage three individuals. Julia Malus-ag, 25 years of age and her four children all residents of Sitio Kiranggol are currently in the hands of NIPAR. Longid says that the case of Liguyon and his community prove that the upscale of capital investments for large-scale mining operations begot increasing numbers of rights abuses. “As IP’s ancestral lands sit atop rich mineral deposits, we have been the prime recipients of gross human rights abuses by pro-mining cliques and even from military personnel. This has been the pattern all throughout the country. Aquino III is doing nothing about this,” says Longid. The ISM is being convened by Kalumbay, Karapatan Northern Mindanao, Community-based Health Services and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR). It is backed by the AIPP through its Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights Defenders Network project supported by the European Union.