Another mining advocate assassinated in Mindanao, PhilippinesPublished by MAC on 2009-03-11
A leading social and environmental advocate on the Philippine island of Mindanao was gunned down on Monday March 9th, by identified motorcycle killers. He is the second anti-mining activist to have been murdered in Mindanao over the past three months.
Eliezer 'Boy' Billanes was renowned for his opposition to the huge Tampakan copper-gold project, owned and managed by the UK-Swiss multinational mining company, Xstrata.
Mr Billanes leaves behind a widow and three children.
Killing of another environmental activist, aimed to silence opposition to large scale mining in Mindanao
Kalikasan PNE Press Release
10 March 2009
"The killing of Eliezer ‘Boy' Billanes is part and parcel of the government and its military's effort to quell the massive opposition to large-scale mining in South Cotabato. We strongly believe that Mr. Billanes was killed because of his staunch environmental advocacy and effective leadership in opposing the Tampakan copper-gold mining project, a priority mining project of the Arroyo administration in Far South Mindanao," said Clemente Bautista of the environmental activist group Kalikasan PNE.
Mr. Billanes was killed on March 9, 2009 at about 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon; the victim was gunned down by two unidentified men riding a motorcycle while doing his usual routine of buying newspaper in the public market of Koronadal City near the City Fire Station. He was the chairman of AGENDA (Alliance for Genuine Development), a regional anti-mining alliance in the region.
"Mr Billanes is the second anti-mining leader in Mindanao and 18th anti-mining activist in the Philippines that was killed under the Arroyo administration. The government is becoming more desperate even resorting to fascist acts in silencing its critics. It now uses coercion and assassination to cow environmentalists, human rights advocates, indigenous people, Church people and anti-mining activists in their campaign against mining liberalization and large-scale mining projects," added Mr. Bautista.
Last December 23, Fernando Sarmiento, Secretary General of Panalipdan (Defend) Mindanao New Bataan Chapter was also gunned down by suspected military. Sarmiento, along with Panalipdan Mindanao, was opposing large-scale mining in the Southern Mindanao Region. Based on the monitoring of Kalikasan PNE, there are already 24 killings since December 2001, along with two enforced disappearances and an attempted assassination victimizing environmental activists and leaders.
"These recent killings are but the result of the Arroyo administration's policy of ‘all out security support' to foreign and large-scale mining companies. The government is intensifying the militarization of mining-affected area which led to increasing harassments of anti-mining activists and more human rights violations. The military and transnational mining companies are using ‘dirty tactics' to sow fear among mining-affected communities and stifle the growing and widening resistance of the people. In South Cotabato and adjacent provinces, the strong anti-large-scale mining campaign is one of the major reasons why the foreign-owned Tampakan mining project had been delayed for a long time," Mr. Bautista explains.
Last November 2008, Department of National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro announced the Investment Defense Force (IDF) during the recent 8th Asia-Pacific Mining Conference and Exhibition 2008. The IDF was designed to protect vital infrastructures and projects of large-scale mining companies and agricultural plantations from armed attacks through increased military presence and operations in the affected communities.
Based on the recent study of Xstrata, owner of the Tampakan project and one of the largest mining companies in the world, there is an estimated 2.2 billion tons of copper and gold resources in Tampakan, South Cotabato. Xstarata and its Australian partner Indophil are projecting commercial mining operation by 2010.
The Catholic Church, environmental groups and peasants' organizations are opposing the mining project due to social, economic, health and environmental concerns. The rebel group New People's Army has attacked several times the mining project causing around 47 million pesos worth of damages.
(See Fact Sheet below)
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights (KARAPATAN)
South Cotabato l Sultan Kudarat l Sarangani l General Santos
FACTSHEET No. 002-2009
Profile of Victim ELIEZER "boy" BILLANES
• Chairman- SOCPAND (South Cotabato People's Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy)
• Chairman- SocCSkSarGenDs- AGENDA (Alliance for Genuine Development)
• Secretary General and Program Director- SAMATIKU (Samahan ng Mag-uuma sa Timog Kotabato)
• Married with three children
• Age: 46
Case EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING
Date of Incident March 09, 2009 at about 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon
Place of Incident Public Market, fronting the City Fire Station, Osmeña Street, Koronadal City
Perpetrators Motorcycle riding men wearing a helmet rode in scooter type vehicle bearing plate # MJ5432
Circumstances: On March 9, 2009 at about 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon, the victim was gunned down by two (2) unidentified men riding a scooter type motorcycle bearing plate number MJ5432 while buying a newspaper as his usual routine along the public market of Koronadal City fronting the City Fire Station. He was hit on his right cheek that caused his death.
Two (2) weeks before the incident transpired, the victim was under surveillance and received several threats coming from the militaries because of his vocal criticisms on mining issues besetting Tampakan, South Cotabato. He even called twice for a dialogue with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to clarify things about his safety and security after knowing that the militaries were already visible in their barangay doing census.
It was first scheduled last March 8, 2009 but was cancelled by a certain Lt. Florentino of the 27th Infantry Battalion assigned in Tupi, South Cotabato instead suggested pursuing it on March 9, 2009 at 9:00 up to 12:00 o'clock noon.
The closed-in dialogue then was attended by three (3) barangay officials and a certain Lt. Florentino at Barangay Hall of Mabini, Koronadal City.
Knowing ELIEZER "boy" BILLANES advocacies and vigilance criticism in the anti-mining campaign in South Cotabato and in defending the rights of the marginalized sectors; as such of the circumstances, there were no other reasons and perpetrators of his death except the government state agents.
KARAPATAN DOCUMENTATION TEAM
Statement of Condemnation on the Killing of Eliezer "Boy" Billanes
Justice and Peace Desk - Social Action Center, Diocese of Marbel
The Diocese of Marbel through the Justice and Peace Desk of the Social Action Center strongly condemn the killing of Eliezer "Boy" Billanes last March 9, 2009 in Koronadal City !
Boy Billanes was the Executive Director of Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Timug Kutabato (SAMATIKU), a member of the board of trustees of Coalition of Social Development Organization of South Cotabato, an active member of the local government development committees of Koronadal and the province of South Cotabato and an active member of various progressive organizations.
Of all his affiliations, Boy Billanes is well known for his stand against any forms of development aggressions especially the presence of the large scale mining company in Tampakan. He has long been a formidable partner of the Social Action Center in its advocacies for environment, human rights, justice and peace.
Recently, the Military has been conducting pulong-pulong in the barangays of Tampakan, tagging anti-mining advocates, including the church, as supporters or as members of the New Peoples Army (NPA). Boy Billanes was one of the many personalities tagged as such and had received numerous threats before his assassination.
The diocese of Marbel does not tolerate any form of repression especially through extrajudicial killings. The right to life is a gift for everybody; no one has the right to take it. The wheel of justice is the proper venue for resolution of any case.
We therefore call on the proper authorities to conduct a thorough and speedy investigation on the killing of Boy Billanes and bring into the bar of justice the ones responsible.
We extend forth our sincerest and deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Boy Billanes. We are willing to extend any help we can to achieve justice for Boy!
Done this 10th of March, 2009, Justice and Peace Desk - Social Action Center, Diocese of Marbel.
Sr. Pat Babiera, OND
JP desk Coordinator
Dinualdo D. Gutierrez, DD
Bishop of the Diocese of Marbel