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Perpetrators of the Lianga massacre must be punished, and the war of plunder against the Lumad must end

02 September 2015

In what may very well be one of the most depraved and deplorable attacks on the lives of environmental defenders in the Philippines, the paramilitary group Magahat, a group attached to the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, publicly massacred Emerico Samarca, the executive director of the Lumad school Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), along with tribal leader Dionel Campos and his cousin Aurelio Sinzo early last Tuesday morning in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

We join the widespread condemnation of this ruthless massacre and the demands for justice for Samarca, Campos, and Sinzo. Beyond that, we demand an end to the militarization and impunity towards various Lumad communities across the Mindanao region, clearly part and parcel of the Aquino administration’s war of plunder against mine-affected communities.

The establishment of ALCADEV by the Lumads in CARAGA region was a groundbreaking and award-winning alternative education program for the Lumad communities accredited by the Department of Education. ALCADEV was also a concrete assertion of the Lumad’s opposition to destructive large-scale mining and other forms of development aggression, as it sought to develop sustainable agriculture and resource management practices and inculcate cultural pride linked with ecological consciousness among young Lumads.

Emerico Samarca was in fact a recent delegate to the International People’s Conference on Mining held in the Philippines last July 31 to August 1, where he was joined by more than 170 participants from over 29 countries in extensively discussing the global mining situation and sharing people’s concrete solutions. The ALCADEV had been a model grassroots initiative in providing a basic social service, preserving local indigenous culture and practices, and establishing an alternative economy in mining-affected indigenous people’s communities.

The Lianga massacre brings the number of killings of environmental advocates we recorded under the administration of Pres. Noynoy Aquino to 49, which has far exceeded the 36 we recorded through almost a decade under the previous Arroyo regime. Eighty percent of all these cases involved anti-mining activists, and almost all of the cases were perpetrated by military ‘investment defense forces,’ company-sponsored paramilitary groups, or private security forces.

More cases may have likely remained undocumented. According to United Nations special rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, 100 indigenous people were killed protecting their ancestral lands and environment over the past three years alone.

The recent rampaging ethnocide by military and paramilitary forces in Mindanao had caused large-scale rights violations, including the forced evacuations of thousands of Lumads across different parts of the region, and the filing of trumped-up harassment charges against the various anti-mining and human rights advocates.

It is no coincidence that Mindanao is the ‘mining capital of the Philippines’ where majority of all mining projects in the country can be found, and that more than 60 percent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ combat troops have been deployed largely in various mine-affected areas in Mindanao.

The Aquino government has had five years to act on the highly militarized large-scale mining industry that is almost inextricable from bloody counter-insurgency operational plans such as Oplan Bayanihan. Aquino himself has long been challenged to reverse his permission of Special CAFGU Active Auxiliary or SCAA units for mining corporations. Aquino and his military attack dogs continue to miserably fail to address their atrocities, and they all must be held to account for their grave sins to the people and the environment.

But the urgent people’s demands still falls on the Aquino administration even during its last, dying days: all military investment defense forces must be pulled out from the mine-affected areas. All paramilitary groups must be disbanded. Swift justice must be delivered by immediately arresting and prosecuting the Magahat paramilitary forces and their superiors in the 36th IBPA. Las but not the least, all anti-people, anti-environment, foreign large-scale mining operations, especially those with track records of human rights violations, must be stopped.#