MAC: Mines and Communities

Yet another indigenous anti-mining leader killed in Philippines

Published by MAC on 2012-09-24
Source: KASAPI, Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR), Tebtebba

Not long after the killing of Timuay Manda's son on the way to school (see: New Philippine mining rules, but will anything change?), another indigenous leader, who has been struggling against large-scale mining, has been murdered.

In this case it is believed that Genesis Ambason from Agusan del Sur was shot, and then possibly tortured, by government paramilitaries, known in the Philippines as CAFGUs. (These civilian-recruited units were created under the Marcos regime, and, while declared illegal post-Marcos, still flourish in conflict areas and are often associated with the protection of businesses such as mining companies).

As the national indigenous organisation KASAPI asks in its statement on the incidident:

"When will extrajudicial killing of indigenous peoples' leaders stop?"

Deplorable killings continue! Indigenous anti-mining leader tortured and killed in Agusan del Sur

Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED) statement

19 September 2012

The Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders (TF-JED) vehemently condemned today the report of the violent torture and killing of Genesis Ambason last September 13 in Brgy. Binikalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

According to a report from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao, the 23 year-old secretary general of grassroots indigenous organization Tagdumahan sustained two gunshot wounds each in his right chest and hip, with wounds on each side of his spine and dark bruises in his face and chest. CAFGUs of the 26th Infantry Battalion headed by Artemio Sublidan are suspected as the perpetrators.

"It is deplorable that the killings of anti-mining activists continue to grow in number despite reassurances of the Aquino government and large-scale miners of ensuring responsible mining. The military continues to be the vicious attack dog of mining operations to quell the opposition of Ambason and various other leaders. It is unforgivable that Pres. Aquino continues to remain silent on the issue of human rights of environmental advocates while his lackeys continue to turn mining-affected communities into killing fields," said Leon Dulce, Convener of TF-JED.

Records of TF-JED show that Ambason is the 55th environmental activist that fell to politically-motivated killings since 2001. He is the 19th environmental activist and 14th anti-mining activist victim killed since the Aquino administration came into power last 2010.

"Ambason and the Tagdumahan were clearly threats to large-scale mining interests in their province, including Malampay Mining, Tambuli Mining and the Makilala Mining companies. Ambason and his comrades were vigorously resisting the entry of these miners in their ancestral domains," Dulce pointed out.

The CAFGUs accused of involvement claimed that the incident with Ambason was an armed encounter with elements of the New People's Army. Charges of rebellion have also been filed against Ambason's companions who were with him when the CAFGUs unleashed gunfire upon them.

"Once again, Aquino and the Philippine Military have demonstrated the defense of plunderous mining investments as among the primary motives of its deployment of CAFGUs and other counter-insurgency forces. Under the Oplan Bayanihan, state agents violently suppress community oppositions to destructive large-scale mining operations through harassments, vilification and ultimately murder. These CAFGUs and other military dogs servile to large-scale mining greed must be dismantled, and Aquino as their commander-in-chief must be held accountable," asserted Dulce.

URGENT ALERT: Another Indigenous Leader Tortured and Killed in Agusan del Sur

Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) statement

19 September 2012

Genesis Ambason, the 23 year old secretary-general of grassroots indigenous organization Tagdumahan, was tortured and killed on September 13, 2012 (around 8pm) at Km. 39, Brgy. Binikalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur allegedly by CAFGUs (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) of the 26th Infantry Battalion headed by Artemio Sublidan.

Individuals present in the incident reported that on September 13, 2012, at around 5:00 in the morning, Aidelyn R. Pareja, 20 years old, and Jerry Layma, 18 years old, were walking to Sitio Tambo, Brgy. Binikilan to mine and buy gold. Small-scale mining via gold panning has been the source of income of the community members. Genesis Ambason told the two that he would catch up with them along with Almie Asalan, his mother-in-law , Aljun Lunsayan, his 18 year old wife's nephew, Bayoy Asalan, his 18 year old nephew, and his father-in-law.

Ambason and his companions were carrying a wooden gold pan, weighing scale, water gallon, and belt pack containing cash worth 18,000 pesos. The group rode uphill to Sitio Tambo in a single motorcycle. Yet upon reaching Km. 39 in Brgy. Binikilan, their vehicle driven by Jomie Manlikayan broke down. The group then decided to just hike up to Sitio Tambo and allowed the motorcycle to return to Brgy. Balit.

It was already dark when Ambason's group arrived at about 200 meters away from Sitio Tambo, they decided to rest from their hike. Their resting spot was at a visible range from the 26th Infantry Battalion military detachment. After just a few moments, they noticed footsteps that were fast approaching their direction. This urged Ambason to shine his flashlight in the sound's origin. However, gunshots were already fired at them just upon Ambason's switching of the light. Thereafter, series of gunfire were directed at their group. Ambason's companions immediately scampered in different directions while Ambason was left behind due to a gunshot wound.

In the evening of the same day, Aidelyn Pareja continued to wait for Almie Asalan and Genesis Ambason. She started to worry when she heard two rounds of gunfire and another five gunshots at around 8:00 pm. She already started to fear for Ambason's group when they still didn't arrive at dawn.

On September 14, 2012 at around 6:00 am, Datu Amay, Brgy. Tambo's tribal chieftain arrived at the place of incident. Datu Amay discovered Ambason's dead body just 130 meters from the 26th Infantry Battalion military detachment. He then transported Ambason to Brgy. Tambo and placed him at the side of the road and covered him with tent. Datu Amay then notified the Brgy. Captain of Balit.

At around 4:30 pm of the same day, Necasio M. Precioso, Ambason's uncle, was sent by the Brgy. Captain to attend to Ambason's remains. At 10:30 pm, Almira Saguitan, Ambason's 8-moth pregnant wife, received his body.

Almira wept while cleaning her husband's body due to her discovery of the injuries he sustained from the incident. Two gunshot wounds at his right chest, another two gunshot wounds at his hip, two wounds at each side of his spine, and dark bruises at his face and chest. Almira was disturbed to discover that Ambason has lost all his teeth and his head has become soft, smaller, and unrecognizable. She suspects that his husband has been tortured. Almira also discovered that his husband's beltbag containing the cash for purchasing gold was missing. The CAFGUs in the detachment have refused to return the item.

Almira expressed her outrage over the official pronouncements of the CAFGUs along with Artemio Sublidan of the 26th IB that the incident involving Ambason and his group was an armed encounter with elements of the New People's Army. Later today, it was learned that the witnesses (those who were with Ambason when the shooting happened) have been charged with rebellion, and have scampered for their safety.

Tagdumahan has been campaigning against the entry of various large-scale mining ventures into their their ancestral domain. Ambason, as Tagdumahan's Secretary General, reported to the regional indigenous peoples' alliance, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, on its 4th General Assembly on December 2011 that their community organization has been resisting the Malampay Mining, Tambuli Mining and the Makilala Mining (see attached pictures).

RMP-NMR believes that the latest attacks against Agbason are part of the historical and sustained suppression against Tagdumahan as an organization doing human rights work for the indigenous peoples of the town of San Luis in Agusan del Sur. Aladino 'Datu Mansubaybay' Badbaran was killed by a paramilitary group in the last quater of 2009. He was the chair of Tagdumahan before he was assassinated.


Room 01, Kalinaw Lanao Center for Interfaith Resources
0016 Bougainvilla Puti, Villaverde
9200 Iligan City, Philippines
T/F: +63 (63) 223 5179

KASAPI Statement on the Killing of Indigenous Leaders

20 September 2012

The KOALISYONG KATUTUBO AT SAMAHAN NG PILIPINAS condemn the unabated brutality being inflicted on indigenous peoples in various parts of the country. Within two weeks following the September 4, 2012 assassination attempt on the life of Subanen Timuay Lucenio Manda in which his son Jordan was killed, here yet again is an act of violence this time against an unarmed leader of the Tagdumahans _ Genesis Ambason. Genesis was reportedly tortured and killed on September 13, 2012 at Km 39, Brgy. Binikilan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur. We condemn the perpetrators of this act who are allegedly members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit of the 26th IB. When will extrajudicial killing of indigenous peoples' leaders stop?

It is the height of tragedy that repression continue to be inflicted on armless civilians long after the reign of terror by Martial Law. Are we in a state of de facto Martial Law? Just like victims before him, Genesis Ambason and the Tagdumahan were opposed to threats to their ancestral domains by three large-scale mining. When indigenous peoples say NO to threats to ancestral domains and the environment, that is not being anti-development. It's a choice for Life that people like Ambason made and his community by vigorously protecting values as a community and as people. It is a choice against their own destruction.

The flimsy military alibi of Ambason purportedly killed in an encounter between the military and NPA is nothing new but is a standard response to such monstrosity. This can't go on under the present Pnoy government when it claims to be opposite Martial Law. The pattern of assassination and killings of indigenous leaders becomes clearer as opposition to large scale mining becomes stronger. But the physical elimination of indigenous leaders won't quell opposition to plunder. It just does not. Indigenous peoples are steeped in the dust of their fathers that even straffing, shelling and bombings of the genocidal kind cannot break their spirits. Recall the lesson that the Bontoks and Kalingas slammed on Marcos when the latter militarized Mountain Province and Kalinga to pursue the Chico River Dam project? They said, "you can bomb us all out of existence.. we are not going to allow destruction of our homes and fields as long as the breath of life is still in us. This is the land of our Fathers! Not even Moses can bring us to another land!". The project would have "dammed" the people's villages, burial grounds, homes and rice terraces. And the assassination of Macliing Dulag did not silence or subject people to cower in fear. This is the same if not equal to the current resistance of indigenous people's opposition to large-scale mining in various parts of the country. It's a position in defense of human rights at its pristine best. Environmental plunderers and their hired mercenaries would do well to think about their strategy of physically annihilating indigenous leaders because this savagery did not work, won't work and will not work.

We call on the international conservation community and human rights groups to denounce this blatant act against indigenous peoples rights. We call on the government through the House Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities to conduct a thorough-going inquiry and investigation into this pattern of assassinations foisted on indigenous leaders. There is no agency at the moment that indigenous communities can trust and rely on and a body which is closest to the rights of indigenous peoples other than this committee. The NCIP which is reposed with powers and mandate to protect indigenous peoples is in distorted mode it is likened by an IP leader as a serpent wriggling through mountains and forests polarizing communities, luring people into the yawning gates of soulless industries through wrongful reporting, fake titles, fake FPICs, a 7-year period for approval of titles and a 55-day, now 65-day approval for mining applications, corruption, arrogant ignorance you name it, its head should be cut off on site like that mythical dragon of old.

Even as we demand government actions on these, we express our deepest sympathies to the family of Genesis Ambason and others before him who have been sacrificed in the altar of destructive mining.

Justice for Genesis Ambason and all indigenous peoples who have been arrested, tortured, killed and disappeared!
Uphold indigenous peoples' rights to land and resources!
Respect indigenous peoples' rights to self-determination!

Giovanni B. Reyes
Koalisyong Katutubo at Samahan ng Pilipinas
Member, Global ICCA Consortium

Statement of Tebtebba on the Killing of Genesis Ambason

20 September 2012

These continuing acts of violence against indigenous peoples in the Philippines are truly despicable and reprehensible. We, in Tebtebba, express our sympathies to the family of Genesis Ambason, the Secretary General of Tagdumahan, who was tortured and killed on September 13, 2012 (around 8pm) at Km. 39, Brgy. Binikalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur in southern Philippines. We condemn strongly this act and the perpetrators, allegedly, the members of the CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) of the 26th Infantry Battalion headed by Artemio Sublidan.

We call on President Benigno Aquino's government to undertake an impartial investigation into his killing and bring the perpetrators to justice. Clearly, the emerging trend is that indigenous leaders, activists and organizations who are fighting for the protection of their lands and territories against large-scale commercial mining are the ones who are subjected to assassinations. A few weeks ago, the attempted assassination of indigenous leader, Timuay Lucenio Manda, which led to the killing of his son, Jordan, took place. We also express our deepest sympathies to Timuay Lucenio Manda and his family for the killing of Jordan.

This government, which is touting its "Daang Matuwid" (good governance) policy and program should systematically investigate all these cases of assassinations of indigenous leaders, including their families. It cannot claim that its program to clean up the government is a success if such killings, usually perpetrated by its own military and paramilitary personnel continue.

Even if such killings were done by paid mercenaries, the government is still legally obliged to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. The record of this government in terms of adhering to its obligations to international human rights law is so pathetic. We call on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Office of the President and the Commission on Human Rights to immediately undertake an investigation of this case and also of the killing of Jordan Manda. We also call for protection of the witnesses to these murders, such as those who are now charged with rebellion in this case.

Such continuing gross violations of the rights of indigenous peoples in this country are unacceptable. The comment of the CAFGU that this was an encounter with the communist-led New People's Army is the standard response they make. How can this be an encounter when Genesis Ambason and his companions were unarmed?

When will such dastardly acts stop? Is this government truly unable to do anything to stop these? Is its policy to attract mining investments into the country trumping what it should legally and morally do, in terms of upholding the basic human rights of its citizens, of its indigenous peoples? Can we rely on the NCIP to do its work considering the messy situation it is in now? Is it possible that the mess in the NCIP is allowed to fester by this government so that in this way, it cannot do its work in terms of ensuring the effective implementation of the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act? In this way the mining operations of large-scale mining corporations will continue unhampered.

These questions are being asked by indigenous peoples who are increasingly getting frustrated by the inability of this government to protect, respect and fulfill their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the IPRA and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We call on Filipinos who care for human rights of indigenous peoples to condemn the killing of Genesis Ambason and Jordan Manda to write letters to President Aquino to discipline the military and paramilitary forces who are under his command. We call on the international community to do likewise.

Justice for Genesis Ambason and Jordan Manda! Justice for all indigenous persons who have been killed, disappeared, tortured, and arbitrarily arrested! Protect, respect and fulfill the rights of Indigenous Peoples!

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
Executive Director, Tebtebba
(Indigenous Peoples' International
Centre for Policy Research and Education)
Former Chair, United Nations Permanent Forum on
Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)

CAFGU strikes anew, indigenous leader shot and tortured to death-Karapatan

Press Statement

20 September 2012

Karapatan today received report of another case of torture and extrajudicial killing of an indigenous leader, Genesis Ambason Saguitan, 23, secretary general of TAGDUMAHAN Lumad organization in the municipality of San Luis, Agusan del Sur. Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay calls the latest incident as "an affirmation of the continuing vestiges of martial law under the Aquino government."

Saguitan's relatives found his body mutilated by the perpetrators, identified as members of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) attached to the 26th IB Detachment in Sitio Tambo, Brgy. Binikalan, San Luis Agusan del Sur. His body was on the road side, some 130 meters away from the detachment of the 26th IB in Sitio Tambo.

According to the report sent to Karapatan, Almira, Saguitan's wife who is eight months pregnant with their first child, "wept while cleaning his husband's body" when she saw the two gunshot wounds in his right chest and another two gunshot wounds in the hip area, near his spine. His face and chest were covered with bruises. Ambason's teeth are all gone. His head was deformed, and his face unrecognizable because of the bruises due to heavy beating.

Palabay said that the brutality of Saguitan's death is "reminiscent of how Fr. Tullo Favali, PIME was killed by paramilitary forces in 1985, under the Marcos dictatorship. In 2011, the same paramilitary forces killed another PIME priest, Fr. Pops Tentorio."

The report indicated that, prior to the incident, Saguitan and four others were on their way to Sitio Tambo, Brgy. Binikilan to mine and buy gold. He had with him 18,000 pesos in cash. They were riding a motorcycle but decided to hike uphill when the motorcycle broke down. Some 200 meters away from Sitio Tambo, Ambason and his group decided to rest as they were already exhausted from hiking. From where they rested, they could see the detachment of the 26th IB; and those at the detachment could also see them.

A few minutes later, they heard footsteps approaching them. Upon hearing this, Ambasong immediately stood up and pointed his flashlight to where the sound was coming from. But as soon as he turned on his flashlight, they were immediately fired at. A series of shots fired also came from the direction of the detachment. Ambason's companions ran to different direction toward the forest, leaving behind Ambason, who could no longer move because of gunshot wound. That was the last time he was seen alive. His wife would later find out that the PhP18,00 he was carrying was lost.

Ambason was active in the anti-mining campaign in the area of San Luis. The CAFGU, according to the residents in the community, were deployed in the area because of the anti-mining campaign. Ambason was also involved in the anti-militarization campaign which he believed has brought about a string of human rights violations among his fellow Lumad. ###

Reference: Cristina "Tinay" Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-5003879
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580

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