MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Shooting strikes holy week observance in Didipio for two years in a row

Published by MAC on 2009-04-20
Source: LRC-KsK Press Release

Security forces of OceanaGold – trigger happy

Even as the OceanaGold project in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, remains technically on hold the intimidation of citizens continues.

Nueva Vizcaya. The observance of lent in Brgy. Didipio was marred again with a shooting incident on 09 April 2009 (Maundy Thursday) when S/G Apollo G. Montenegro of Sagittarius security agency shot at Mr. Ferdinand Kindipan, an Ifugao and resident of barangay Didipio. Montenegro is a security guard of mining company OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI).

Five security guards manning one of the OGPI checkpoint accosted Mr. Kindipan when his vehicle approached the checkpoint. According to Mr. Kindipan, a certain Mr. Chardi Cruel acting as security director of OGPI commanded him to get out of his vehicle and surrender his identification and drivers license to the checkpoint, while gesturing to punch him. Mr. Kindipan initially refused, asserting “bakit ko ibigay sayo, hindi ka naman pulis o taga-LTO tsaka wala naman ako kasalanan”. However, Mr. Cruel retorted “Marami ka pa sinasabi, putang-ina mo, imposible na hindi mo dala, hubadan kita dyan, pag may nakita ako lagot ka”. Out of fear Mr. Kindipan surrendered his driver’s license to Mr. Cruel. Mr. Cruel handed it to another security guard and proceeded to the back of Kindipan’s vehicle, while firing his handgun three (3) times.

Unsatisfied with these threatening acts, the security guards including S/G Montenegro were instructed by Mr. Cruel to fire upon the vehicle of Mr. Kindipan while the latter was backing up from the checkpoint. Kindipan’s vehicle sustained 9 bullet holes from a single shot from S/G Montenegro’s shotgun. Mr. Kindipan was on board the vehicle when the guards fired upon it.

The incident has been reported to the authorities and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Nueva Vizcaya will provide the assistance to Mr. Kindipan. The office of the provincial governor provided assistance in facilitating the case of Mr. Kindipan to the NBI for necessary actions. The provincial legal officers in a dialogue with residents of Didipio in October 2008 pledged to provide support when needed by the people of Didipio.

The incident last Maundy Thurday is reminiscent of the shooting incident during the previous years observance of holy week when Emilio Pumihic, another Didipio resident, was shot by S/G Whitney Dongiahon on 23 March 2008 (Black Saturday). Mr. Pumihic was later hospitalised and treated in Lagawe hospital. The incident happened when Emilio Pumihic tried to stop the demolition crew of OGPI from demolishing the house of his friend Samuel Bidang at the time. S/G Whitney Dongiahon evaded arrest last year but has already returned to Didipio, providing service again to OGPI, according to residents in Didipio. The incident has been reported to the Commission on Human Rights, with Chairman Leila de Lima instructing the investigation of the liability of the company OGPI for human rights violations.

The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Phils. strongly condemns the continued commission of human rights violations against the indigenous peoples’ in Didipio by foreign mining company OceanaGold. OceanaGold’s operations in 2008 alone displaced more than a hundred indigenous families as a result of the violent demolition activities in the first quarter of 2008. OGPI conducted demolition activities that, in an order, were considered by a local court to be "tainted with irregularity". The list of human rights violations as committed by OGPI continues, harassment of residents has become almost an everyday occurrence in the Didipio community. Community members believe that these acts of violence are intended to force the residents to sell their lands and leave the community. Majority of the irrigation systems of the Ifugao farmers were destroyed during the demolition activities and earth moving operations of the company in the first quarter of 2008 that has brought down the amount of food supply to the community.

The suspension of operations by OceanaGold last year was a welcome surprise, and considered by the Didipio community as “bad karma” for the violent demolitions the mining company has inflicted upon the community.

For the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, the suspension of operations in 2008 showed OceanaGold’s inability to operate a legitimate mining project. They should withdraw from the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA), and the government must take the necessary steps to safeguard the indigenous peoples, communities, and natural resources of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces.

The Mining Act of 1995 requires that FTAA holders have the financial, technical and managerial abilities to carry out mineral exploration and utilisation on a large scale. The Didipio Gold Copper Project has been tainted by massive human rights violations, and showed that OceanaGold entered into the agreement hinged on mere financial speculation.

For more information, contact: Ronald A. Gregorio, (02) 926 4409, (02) 434 4079



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