Protect environment defenders
The National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace (Nassa) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), vehemently condemns the attack on environment defender and indigenous peoples’ Timuay (leader) Lucenio Manda last Sept. 4 in Bayog, Zamboanga Peninsula. The attack is deplorable and inhuman.
Manda was bringing his 11-year-old son Jordan to school when they were ambushed. He was wounded during the incident, but his son died instantly.
We are alarmed by the incident. We believe that the attack is part of a campaign to cow or kill those who dare to protect Mother Earth from environmentally destructive operations that are insensitive to people’s rights.
We understand that Manda is leading the claim of his Subanen tribe to their ancestral domain. He had questioned the entry of logging and mining operations without his community’s Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as required under the law. He has led his fellow IPs from neighboring ancestral domains in calling for a moratorium to all forms of mining until they get their official ancestral domain claims. And together with local Catholic bishops and concerned groups, he had signed the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan to protect the Pinukis Range Forest which is now included in the mining claims of several companies. The petition is aimed at protecting their sacred mountain and the watershed that serves three major rice-growing areas in the peninsula.
It is very disheartening to note that those who protect these areas, like Timuay Manda and his supporters, have been receiving death threats in the past three years. Death threats are becoming very common to those who care for the earth. Those fighting for their rights against environmental destruction, mining operations, logging and land-grabbing are targets of persecution and attacks. We call upon our people to rally behind Timuay Manda’s efforts to assert and protect the rights of the Subanen tribe and their ancestral domain. Let not the death of his son be without meaning.
We call upon President Aquino and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to heed the call of the antimining advocates for a moratorium to all mining operations in the country until a new alternative mining law is passed.
We call for a prompt and honest investigation of this crime by the local police to bring the perpetrators to justice. We also call for an immediate and impartial investigation at the national level to seek the truth and bring the masterminds of this senseless crime to face the consequences of this demonic act in order to end the cycle of violence and impunity.
We urge the President and government officials to protect, as a state obligation, human rights, especially of those who are merely protecting the environment from destructive mining and logging operations.
—BISHOP BRODERICK S. PABILLO, DD,
National Secretariat for Social Action-
Justice and Peace (Nassa)