MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Bishop of Dipolog Condemns the Armed and Legal Harassment of Subanon People by TVI

Published by MAC on 2004-08-12

Bishop of Dipolog Condemns the Armed and Legal Harassment of Subanon People by TVI

Press Release - DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues (DCMI)

August 12, 2004

Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines – Twelve residents, mostly Indigenous Subanon people, were jailed yesterday by the police after TVI Resource Development Philippines, a Canadian mining firm, filed cases against them.

Bishop José R. Manguiran of the Diocese of Dipolog, who has for many years advocated against environmental exploitation at the expense of affected communities, categorically condemned the incident.

One of those arrested was Timuay (or Chieftain) Macario Salacao, a President of the Siocon Federation of Tribal Councils. Timuay Salacao, 70 years old, was one of those wounded when TVI's armed Special CAFGU Armed Auxilliaries (SCAA) shot at people protesting against the company’s planned open cast mine at Sitio Canatuan, here on 17th March, this year.

At around 3:00pm on 11th August, the arresting police officers served the warrant of arrest to the twelve individuals, who where staying at the Catholic Parish Convent in Siocon, awaiting their arrest together with around 800 supporters, including Subanon, Christians and Muslims.

The two arresting officers brought the accused to the Siocon police station for questioning, and the supporters paraded and followed the accused, condemning TVI’s shameless deed to legitimate oppostion.

At around 4:00pm, the supporters made an ecumenical prayer headed by Bishop Manguiran with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, seventh day Adventist, Muslims, Subanon and other religious groups.

After the ecumenical prayer and some messages of support from members of the Siocon Municipal Council, Bishop Manguiran condemned TVI for their armed and legal harassment against the poor people of Siocon, especially the Indigenous People Subanon.

“The situation of Siocon is like that of a family who have a visitor. The visitor abused the house, but when the owner of the house protested, the visitor filed a case against the family. This is the situation of the people of Siocon,” Bishop Manguiran explained.

"This is a upside-down situation" he said. "Because those people who are sacrificing their lives for the protection of creation against its destruction are suffering and are now in jail, while the nothing happens to the genuine destroyer, which is TVI, who claim to be a responsible miner."

"In Philippine society there’s a big discrepancy, because our government does not even give free college and university education for the farmers who are feeding all the people. While the people whose jobs are to kill or destroy creation get free uniforms, tuition and other privileges", Manguiran lamented.

Mayor Cesar C. Soriano also supported the victims and condemned TVI's forcible and shameless entry into the ancestral domain of the Subanon people.

“There are 42 cases initiated by TVI against me, as they are aiming to oust me from Siocon so that no one could help and support the people who are opposing any form of environmental destruction, especially large-scale mining”, Soriano said.

“TVI has circulated misinformation to the people. That is why I am opposed TVI", the Mayor said.

The Mayor pointed out that "TVI claim of having overwhelming support from Siocon, but that’s not true, because the Local Government of Siocon had clearly stated its position against any form of environmental destruction, including the operation of TVI, through a municipal council resolution."

"The proof that TVI is unacceptable here is that all the political candidates supported and financed by the company during May's election were not supported", stated one of the observers at the ecumenical prayer, who declined to be named.

The twelve residents who were jailed are seen by their supporters as heroes, because of their sacrifice for the common good of Siocon, despite the present consequences.

The following are the protesters who were jailed because of TVI's legal harassment: Godofredo Galos, a Chairperson of Save Siocon Watershed Paradise Movement and President of Siocon Federation of Farmers Association, Mrs. Nenani Aganan, Subanon, Apolonia Bulagao, resident of Sitio Canatuan Siocon.

The others jailed yesterday were: Mr. And Mrs. Nino Davi, Subanon, Timuay Macario Salacao and Julie Lobregas, Subanon; Ofelia Davi of staff of DIOPIM Committee on Mining Issues; Elena Comisas, Subanon and three others.

At present around twenty protesters could be arrested on these charges at any time, although they have declined to go into hiding.

Some participants at the protest were asking why TVI only filed charges against these very poor people and declined to file a case against the priests and other prominent people were participating at the protest action. TVI's action in selecting these poor people for arrest is seen as a clear manifestation of harassment against the community’s genuine aspiration for sustainable development.

The charges filed are to do with a picket that started on March 14, this year, when members of the Save Siocon Watershed Paradise Movement staged a protest action at Barangay Pisawak, around 20 kilometers from the mining site of TVI. They successfully prevented the heavy equipment of Alnor Construction from moving towards the mining site. Most of the people of Siocon participated in the protest, because every day and night, three to five barangays were scheduled to man the protest in Pisawak.

But on March 17, TVI's armed SCAA shamelessly shot at the peaceful protesters, and injured four of them. One of those wounded was Timuay Macario Salacao.

On April 17, Alnor Construction finally withdrew its heavy equipment from Siocon towards its home base in Surigao in the Northern part of Mindanao.

But at the end of May this year, TVI filed a case at the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Dipolog City against 33 individuals for alleged violation of section 107 of Republic Act 7942, or the Mining Act of 1995, which stated there had been an “Obstruction of Permitee".

Because of the difficulties of getting legal representation, especially as proposed lawyers were busy after the election, the respondents were not able to answer the charges within the prescribed timeframe of ten days. The judge of the Municipal Trial Circuit Court then issued an arrest warrent against the 33 respondents.

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