By Gaia Mandala
Bus and taxi drivers threw coins on the group tailing the hearse as a sign of respect and observing superstition. The funeral march along EDSA was carrying no dead celebrity. In fact, it’s not carrying any remains at all.
To call for justice and pay tribute to the brutally killed members of Indigenous Peoples, several organizations and lumad groups marched from the People Power Monument towards Camp Aguinaldo, led by a white hearse carrying an empty coffin on October 30.
Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc., Alyansa Tigil Mina, members of B’laan community, the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocate (PAHRA), and Lilak-(Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) remain steadfast in their stand that the mining operations has perpetuated rampant violence and human rights violations, leading to the deaths of several IPs opposing the destructive industry in their respective areas.
The protesters parked the hearse by the gate of Camp Aguinaldo to light candles for the dead during a short program. The groups also chanted for justice, holding the government and its defense department accountable for the continuous deaths among lumad groups.
Aside from the recent killings of educators and IP members in Surigao del Sur, the groups also commemorated the Capion Massacre, where the members of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines reportedly strafed a hut killing B’laan family inside. This happened three years ago, in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
“As President Aquino remembers his own dead loved ones this Undas, we also urge him to remember the names of numerous IP children, women, and men who were slain under his administration. Among them are Jordan and John Capion, B’laan boys aged 13 and 8 who were killed along with their mother Juvy, by the military men under the 27th IB,” said Lilak coordinator Judy Pasimio.
ATM, meanwhile, noted that 32 IP leaders within its network were killed under the Aquino administration, because of their struggle to protect their community from mining activities.
“We are hoping that impunity, injustices and IP Killings will not be part of the things that PNoy will hand over to the next administration,” PMPI campaigner Ed Garingan said.
“The mindset of the government is to utilize all untapped minerals for economic development, which is contrary to the indigenous concept of development: watershed protection, abundance of forest resources, and respect to the right to self-determination & customary laws,” said Rene Pamplona, Justice and Peace Coordinator SAC Diocese of Marbel.
Pamplona added that the government continues to mindlessly invade IP territories in the name of development aggression.
“The IP killings expose the real risks and threats faced by communities who resist mining. We hold the government accountable for its failure to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples, and we reject the government policy on endorsing the deployment of police, military and para-military to protect mining investments,” said ATM National Coordinator Jaybee Garganera.
Garganera maintained the groups’ demand to immediately cancel all mining contracts, particularly of the companies involved in documented cases of violence, human rights
violations and killings of IPs.
“To this end, we demand Congress to immediately pass a new mining law such as the Alternative Minerals Management Bill (AMMB) to address the issues and concerns of IPs related to mining,” Garganera ended.
ATM, LILAK and PAHRA are members of the Tampakan Forum, a network of groups supporting the struggle of the B’laan community and the campaign of the Diocese of Marbel’s SAC against the mining project in Tampakan, South Cotabato. PMPI serves as the network’s secretariat.