Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Murder of Fr. Tentorio may be related to his anti-mining advocacy

MANILA, Philippines—The group tasked to investigate the murder of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio—Special Investigation Task Group Fausto or SITG Fausto—was looking into several motives of the still-unknown motorcycle-riding suspects, said Philippine National Police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. on Tuesday.

He said they were verifying information on the threats Tentorio has received prior to the incident.

The PNP spokesman declined to reveal the motives being considered by SITG Fausto but admitted that one of the motives being checked by authorities was Tentorio’s being “vocal about mining” in the area.

It was however “still too early” to speculate on which motive may have drove the gunmen to end Tentorio’s life and SITG Fausto was “not ruling out other motives,” said the PNP spokesperson.
He said SITG Fausto started gathering information and physical evidence on Monday. It has also found some witnesses.

Authorities, however, still have to check whether a description of the gunman could be formed based on the witnesses’ accounts, added Cruz.

Cruz revealed that local chief executives were meeting with SITG Fausto commander Chief Superintendent Lester Camba to ensure a systematized investigation on the case.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Italian missionary’s slay shocks Church, Lone gunman kills priest near convent

ARAKAN, North Cotabato—Eight years ago, he eluded anticommunist gunmen by hiding inside a small cabinet made of bamboo. On Monday, a lone assassin with a gun equipped with a silencer shot him eight times as he was getting into his pickup truck outside a convent.

In a broad daylight murder that stunned members of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as government officials, Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio—fondly known as “Father Pops”—was gunned down in a church compound in Arakan town while a flag-raising ceremony was going on nearby.

The gunman, wearing a crash helmet, casually walked to a motorcycle waiting near the Mother of Perpetual Help church compound and sped away with a companion, witnesses said.

Tentorio, 59, was declared dead at the hospital—the third Italian priest and the third member of the Vatican-run Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) to have been killed in Mindanao in the past 26 years.

He had been working as a missionary in Mindanao for more than three decades.

Sources at the PIME said Tentorio had been receiving death threats from some groups since two years ago, prompting him at one point, when he was out of the country, to postpone his return to the Philippines for a few months.

Malacañang, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and members of the Roman Catholic Church in the country condemned the murder. The Department of Justice also ordered an immediate investigation.

Police said among those they would interview were Tentorio’s colleagues and other possible witnesses, including teachers at a preschool within the church compound who were at a flag-raising ceremony when the attack took place.

Tentorio was about to board his pickup at around 7:30 a.m. to attend a meeting of the clergy in the capital city of Kidapawan, 30 kilometers away, when the gunman approached him and fired, according to Arakan Councilor Leonardo Reovoca, a former parish worker.

Tentorio suffered eight bullet wounds from a gun of still unknown caliber.

Pastorally active

“I rushed to where he was and I saw him on the ground, blood oozing from his body,” Reovoca said.

The town councilor said he spoke with Tentorio on Sunday night and saw “nothing unusual” about him. “I cannot think of any reason why he should die this way,” Reovoca said in a radio interview.

Tentorio was a staunch antimining advocate since he started his parish work in Arakan, Reovoca said, adding that the Italian priest opposed “projects which are unsustainable and would harm the indigenous peoples.”

Fr. Giulio Mariani, a spokesperson for PIME’s regional diocese, said Tentorio arrived in the Philippines in 1978, a year after being ordained in Italy.

He said Tentorio had dedicated his life to helping local tribesmen and other disadvantaged people. “He gave them dignity and he was very pastorally active among the poor.”

Worked for justice

Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo condemned Tentorio’s killing and said over Church-run Radio Veritas: “This again taints our international image.”

Bagaforo said priests from Kidapawan, where the communist New People’s Army (NPA) operated, said the killing could have been done either by those “underground” or by a rightist group.

“There are many rightist armed groups that are offended by the work for justice being done by the Church, especially Father Fausto, who is a director for tribal Filipinos. That was his advocacy,” Bagaforo said.

Two other PIME missionaries were killed while assigned in separate areas in Mindanao several decades ago.

Fr. Tulio Favali was brutally murdered by militiamen led by Norberto Manero in 1985 in North Cotabato, while Fr. Salvatore Carzedda was killed in Zamboanga in 1992.

Death threats

Mariani said Tentorio, like other missionaries in Mindanao, had received death threats and his murder may have been linked to his efforts to help the tribespeople.

“Missionaries have always been the voice of the poor and, if you work on their behalf, sometimes you are bound to step on the toes of those who have other interests,” he said.

Founded in 1926, PIME missionaries work in 17 countries around the world, mainly in areas where there are conflicts and political turmoil, according to its website.

Mariani said there were at least 20 PIME priests in the Philippines, most of whom were in Mindanao.

PNP investigating

As of 4 p.m. Monday, the Italian Embassy had not issued a statement. An embassy source said it was still awaiting the official police report.

Malacañang on Monday night said the Philippine National Police was now looking into the murder.

“We condemn the killing of Father Tentorio,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
He said President Benigno Aquino III was aware of the murder and had been told by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo that he was now investigating the killing.

The DFA condemned the murder “in the strongest terms.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario offered his “sincerest condolences to (Tentorio’s) family and to his congregation” and added: “We call on the police to immediately bring the perpetrators of this dastardly act to justice.”

Memories of Favali

Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales said: “It’s terrible. It brings memories of Fr. Tulio Favali.”

Rosales asked PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome to “give full attention” to solving the murder.

Rosales did not rule out the possibility that Tentorio’s mission to protect the indigenous peoples had put his life in danger.

“Advocates critical of big mining operations are gunned down with impunity while rebels demand higher taxes from these businesses at the risk of having their equipment burned. The PNP must step up its operations to protect innocent lives,” she added.

Tentorio had been in the Philippines for 33 years.

He was first assigned in the Archdiocese of Zamboanga in 1978. He was transferred to the Diocese of Kidapawan in 1980 and assigned as mission administrator in the parish of Columbio in the province of Sultan Kudarat. In 1985, he was transferred to the mission station of Arakan.
Killing the dream

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Lala Taliño Mendoza vowed to work with other authorities to arrest the perpetrators of the killing.

In a statement, Bishop Romulo dela Cruz, D.D., of the Diocese of Kidapawan asked the parishioners of Arakan to remain calm and added: “May God touch the hearts of the perpetrator.”

Norma Capuyan, chairperson of the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Cotabato (ASLPC), said the assassin not only killed a priest but also the dreams of indigenous peoples who were scholars of the slain priest.

“He was the only hope of the indigenous peoples in Arakan. He was a father and a mentor to them. He sent them to high school and college,” Capuyan said.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), a religious order, also denounced the killing.
Describing Tentorio as a missionary who selflessly worked to help the indigenous peoples and the poor farmers, Lauro de Guia, OMI provincial superior, said: “We are saddened that there are sectors in our society who are against our work to help bring about peace in Mindanao.”

In Zamboanga City, Claretian priest Angel Calvo said the killing of Tentorio “confirmed once more that working for justice and peace is risky and dangerous in some parts of the country.”

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad said: “It is always painful when someone, a man of the cloth, is killed. We ask that his death be given justice and perpetrators immediately arrested and made accountable for the crime.”


Friday, October 14, 2011


Indigenous Women Ask

President Noynoy Aquino recently approved the military proposal to allow mining companies to form and fund militias or Special Civilian Active Auxiliary units.

In just 9 days after the Surigao mining attack, the Aquino administration has immediately acted on the demand of the mining industry for protection.

We now ask – protection against whom?

In our meeting with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials, one said that the militias are necessary to protect the mining companies from attacks and threats to foreign investments.

This sends chills to our bones. This sounds like a blanket call to intensify attacks against us - protectors of the environment and defenders of our indigenous communities, who have often been referred to as anti-development, and threats to investments.

As indigenous women, we have been struggling for so long against mining in our territories – as mining destroys our watersheds in Mindoro and in Negros Occidental; mining poisons our rivers in Agusan del Sur; causes divisiveness among our Subanen people, destroys our sources of food in Zambales, in Nueva Vizcaya and desecrates our sacred lands in Misamis Oriental. Mining violently forces our communities to leave our lands.

As defenders of our rights, we organize campaigns, we sign petitions, we write complaints, we seek for dialogues, we file cases, we take to the streets, and some of us, have launched hunger strike for more than a week. We monitor, document, report and expose violations committed by the mining companies in our areas.

As a result, our leaders have been killed. We experience harassment and threats. We have been labeled as NPA-supporters, or rebels ourselves. Prices are put on our heads. All these, because we oppose mining; because we exercise our right to say no to mining; and we assert our right to our land.

Through all this, we get no protection from the government. We have no assurance that we can continue to assert our rights free from harassment, threats and violence. With this approval of P’Noy to form and fund militias for the protection of mining companies, we fear for the escalation of violence against us, in our communities. We fear for our security, for our lives.

Militias, which have been organized and funded by different politicos and companies, have a long track record of human rights violations against women and men from indigenous communities who defend our territories from encroachment and destruction. And these violations have enjoyed immunity, all in the name of defending investments and so-called national interest.

Who then do we turn to, to protect us? If P’Noy who we expected to enforce changes in our system and governance, has resulted to the same militaristic response against our legitimate concerns and issues against mining, then we are losing hope in this government.

And so, we turn to ourselves, and draw inspiration and strength from each other – we, indigenous women from mining-affected and other development project-affected communities.

And we hope that this solidarity will protect us from those who consider us threats to their investments, and obstacles to their opportunity to earn for themselves.

Because now we realize, we only have ourselves to rely on.

As we now know who the real boss is of PNoy.


Signed byBae Anahaw Ruth C. Tila-on (Manobo/ Agusan del Sur)
Conchita Bigong (Alangan-Mangyan / Oriental Mindoro)
Nena “Bae Rose” D. Undag (Higaonon / Misamis Oriental)
Nilda M. Mangilay (Subanen / Zamboanga del Norte)
Judith P. Maranes (Ibaloi / Baguio City)
Shirley D. Sombuador (Ati-Bukidnon / Bacolod, Negros Occidental)
Marilyn V. Masaganda (Aeta / Capas, Tarlac)
Maria Tialang (Blaan / South Cotabato)Lily Quindo (Blaan / South Cotabato)

The Koronadal IP Women Gathering held in Marbel, South Cotabato last July 22-24, 2011 was participated in by 56 women from different indigenous communities. The women developed and came up with an Indigenous Women Declaration which contains their plight and situation, as well as their demands from the government.

Contact through – judy a. pasimio /Legal Rights and Natural Resources CenterJudy.pasimio@lrcksk.org / 9281372

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Green groups remember death of Romblon environmentalist

Press ReleaseOctober 4, 2011
Green groups remember death of Romblon environmentalist

Sibuyan Island, Romblon – Environmental groups and residents of biodiversity-rich Sibuyan Island commemorate the death of anti-mining activist Armin Rios Marin during a tribute and mass for environmental justice at Brgy. Espana, San Fernando, yesterday.

Marin was murdered on October 3, 2007, by a security officer of nickel mining company Sibuyan Nickel Properties Development Corporation (SNPDC), while leading a protest against a survey and the approval of special permits to cut more than 70,000 trees.

Marin was trustee of Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE), former local councilor and staff of World Wildlife Fund (WWF); and lay leader of a local parish church.

“We are still standing united against the exploitation of our island; before Armin died he showed us how to stand firm to protect the future our children’s children. Justice for him is the revocation of Altai’s MPSA license,” said Domingo Marin, father of the murdered councilor.

“Mining in island ecosystems like Sibuyan and neighboring Tablas in Romblon is not sustainable as it endangers the livelihood and lives of communities, our voices should be heard – Romblon says NO,” said Msgr. Ernie Fetalino, chairman of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM).

“Armin Rios Marin’s death is not isolated; this is the consequence of the insistence of large scale mining companies and the previous administration to exploit even the lives of communities – President Benigno Aquino III should consider the revocation of Altai’s mining permit,” lamented Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina.

“Mining affected communities will always stand up for their rights because the issue at hand goes beyond economics, for them it is food security, disaster resiliency, intergenerational responsibility and carrying capacity of nature,” Garganera added.

SNPDC is the local partner of Australia-based Pelican Resources Ltd. and implementer of a Mineral Productions Sharing Agreement (MPSA) permit held by Altai Philippines Mining Corporation (APMC) for an estimated area of 1,500 hectares. APMC is a subsidiary of Canada-based Altai Resources Inc.

The Mines and Geosciences Bureau recently issued a Cease and Desist Order to Altai due to complaints from the local government units and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

Local government units, environmental groups, the religious, students and teachers, farmers and fisher folks joined the celebration.

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) is an alliance of mining-affected communities and their support groups of NGOs/POs and other civil society organizations who are opposing the aggressive promotion of large-scale mining in the Philippines. (30)

For more information:
Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator, (0927) 761.76.02 Farah Sevilla, ATM Policy&Advocacy Officer, (0915) 331.33.61