MAC: Mines and Communities

Philippines' Human Rights Commissioner investigates Didipio complaints

Published by MAC on 2009-11-16
Source: Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (2009-11-06)

The chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights has visited the community at Didipio to investigate its long list of human rights complaints.

Even while the chairperson was there, the victimisation of community leaders continued - they are being accused of trespassing on their own land.

CHR Chairperson Leila de Lima visits Didipio, Confirms OceanaGold's human rights violations

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK) Press Release

6 November 2009

The recent visit of the Commission on Human Rights Chairperson, Leila de Lima, in Didipio on 5th November is commendable and shows seriousness and sincerity on the part of the commission to undertake a top level investigation with regards to complaints of human rights violations committed by OceanaGold Philippines Inc (OceanaGold) against the indigenous residents of Barangay Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya.

Her initial impression on the visit was that the complaints that had been filed with her office were indeed true. She was able to meet the complainants and affected residents. They had waited for her since the last week of October, but the recent typhoons caused her to postpone her trip. The commission is scheduled to issue a report within this month with regards to the land conflict and issues of human rights violations in Didipio.

The allegations of illegal demolition coupled with arson, intimidation and force were directly relayed to her by the victims during her visit. The residents were very grateful of the Chairperson's gestures of getting to the bottom of the conflict and serve justice to the victims. Chairperson de Lima in her statement last 16 October said "If the Commission finds that there is truth to allegations that the PNP [Philippine National Police] conducted the operation for the private benefit of OceanaGold and not for the welfare of the public-at-large, if the PNP contingent was indeed armed, in violation of protocols on forced evictions and if the force that was employed was unnecessary and excessive, I will make sure that not only must the residents be restored to their homes, but members of the demolition team and their superiors will be held administratively and criminally liable." She also had a dialogue with the PNP and the Local Government Units (LGUs) the next day.

OceanaGold since December of 2007 are forcibly evicting indigenous residents in the community who have been residing there since 1950's. The conflict began in 1994 when the national government issued the first Financial & Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA # 001) with Climax Arimco Mining Corporation and then to OceanaGold, covering more than 3,000 hectares of land.

The demolition of indigenous peoples houses, which now amounts to more than 180, was done by OceanaGold without due process. In 2008 the Regional Trial Court of Bayombong interpreted their actions as 'tainted with irregularity and contrary to law' based on the complaint filed by members of Dididio Earth Savers Multi-purpose Association (DESAMA), an indigenous peoples organization in Didipio.

Meanwhile, the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama saKalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK/FoE Phils) is calling for the revocation of OceanaGold's FTAA, citing its financial, technical and managerial incapacity aside from exercising immoral business conduct here in the Philippines. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources should be held accountable for entering and issuing mining contracts with companies such as OceanaGold venturing into business that merely hinged on financial speculations.

Mayor Tayaban of Kasibu shares the call for the revocation of OceanaGold's FTAA and all permits issued to the company. "The company only brought chaos and divided the community, the demolitions and the conversion of farmlands in Didipio made the community more vulnerable to food shortage especially rice and vegetables."

For more information please contact Ronald A. Gregorio, Gerard C. Arances: ronald.gregorio@lrcksk.org; 0917-5481674; gerry.arances@lrcksk.org; 0915-8580171. Other information and previous media releases are available at www.lrcluzon.multiply.com; www.lrcksk.org.

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Ronald A. Gregorio
Team Leader
LRC Luzon Regional Office
41-B Mapagsangguni St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
Philippines
Tel: +63 2 926 4409
Fax: +63 2 434 4079
email: lrc.luzon@lrcksk.org
blog: lrcluzon.multiply.com


IPs and Cause-Oriented Group Condemn the Impending Arrest of Leaders Resisting Mining in Didipio

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC-KsK) Press Release

4 November 2009

Residents of Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, both indigenous peoples and rural dwellers, and their cause oriented allies denounce the impending arrest of 11 inhabitants and community leaders, who have been in the forefront of resisting large-scale foreign mining company OceanaGold in their community.

This arrest comes in the light of the Department of Justice (DOJ)'s denial of the petition for review last October 20, 2009 filed by the lawyers of the respondents to the resolution of the Provincial Prosecuter of Nueva Vizcaya, which finds probable cause for violation of Section 79 of PD 705 against the said 11 residents of Didipio. Presidential Decree 705, Section 79, pertains to illegal occupation of classified forest lands, and alleged that the residents were illegal forest occupants, and that they had cut trees without a permit or license to do so.

The residents of Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya denounce the impending arrest of their 11 leaders, who have been in the forefront in resisting the OceanaGold mining project in their community.

According to Manang Carmen, a leading officer of Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association (DESAMA) and a barangay official of Didipio, "We are quite saddened by the DOJ's decision for they have glossed over the non-implementation of strict criminal procedure that was supposed to be executed by the Provincial Prosecutor of Nueva Vizcaya. How can the DOJ decide this way? It is clear that our leaders were not given due process."

The 11 respondents, which include Peter Duyapat, an Ifugao delegate to the recently concluded United Nations Commission on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) conference held in Geneva, Switzerland last August 2009, were asserting that they were not properly given due process. According to them, none of the legal requirements were followed in the case. The subpoenas were not tendered properly, thus the respondents accidentally only knew of the case when they were attending another community case. The said subpoena just fell into the hands of some persons other than the respondents themselves.

Manong Peter asserts that "In its very essence, this impending arrest through a case filed against us by the Provincial Prosecutor only favors the mining corporation, and is a form of harassment upon those that have been resisting the mining project in our baranggay."

Likewise, Ronald Gregorio, LRC-KsK Luzon Team Leader agrees to Manong Peter's assertion, "This is clearly a form of persecution against indigenous peoples. Obviously this is a SLAPP suit (Strategic Law Suit Against Public Participation) that the main objective is to harass and ultimately quell community opposition that is being often utilised by corporations."

"How can we be illegally occupying the forest lands, when we have been there for decades and diligently paying taxes to the government? It is a grave insult to us Ifugaos who have been inhabiting Didipio since the 1960s. We are Ifugaos, we live in forest lands." Duyapat explains.

Whatever happens, the indigenous peoples, along with their allies, resolve that this case will not weaken their determination to keep on resisting the mining project in Didipio. They are prepared to fight off this case and will not relinquish their right to their land.

"We will fight this case, tooth and nail to the very end." Duyapat concludes.

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Ronald A. Gregorio
Team Leader
LRC Luzon Regional Office
41-B Mapagsangguni St., Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
Philippines
Tel: +63 2 926 4409
Fax: +63 2 434 4079
email: lrc.luzon@lrcksk.org
blog: lrcluzon.multiply.com

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