Philippines: Youth indigenous leader tortured and killed
National alliance of indigenous peoples Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) expressed fury over the killing of another indigenous leader.
Genesis Ambason, 23 year old secretary-general of grassroots indigenous organization Tagdumahan, was tortured and killed allegedly by members of the CAFGUs (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit) of the 26th Infantry Battalion headed by Artemio Sublidan last September 13, 2012.
“The torture and slay of Genesis is infuriating. It portrays State forces for exactly what they are—they do not serve and protect the people but are the guardian of businesses and the butchers of our people,” Piya Macliing Malayao ang KAMP spokerson said.
Tagdumahan, based on northern Mindanao is an affiliate organization of KAMP.
According to reports of religious organization Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR), Ambason and two others were walking in towards a nearby village to sell and mine gold. Gold-panning, a traditional and indigenous small-scale mining practice, is the livelihood of local residents, including Ambason. Ambason and his companions were carrying a wooden gold pan, a weighing scale, a water gallon, and belt pack containing P18,000.
The hike towards Sitio Tambo, their quarry, brought them near the detachment of the 26th Infantry Battalion. According to Ambason's companions, footfalls were heard nearby and they were fired at by the arriving men. Ambason was left behind, wounded by the barrage of bullets.
The next day, September 14, tribal chieftain Datu Amay found Ambason's dead body at the place of the firing incident. Almira Saguitan, Ambason’s 8-months-pregnant wife, saw torture marks on his husband's body as she cleaned him. Ambason had two gunshot wounds at his right chest, another two gunshot wounds at his hip, two wounds at each side of his spine, and dark bruises at his face and chest. Ambason also had lost all his teeth and his head has become soft, smaller, and unrecognizable. Almira also discovered that his husband’s belt bag containing the cash for purchasing gold was missing.
The Cafgu and the 26th IB denied the possession of the cash, and pronounced that Ambason was killed during in an encounter with the New People's Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“We are outraged that the AFP and the Cafgu has the guts to deny killing of Ambason, who was killed practically outside their yard. They fired at people as if they were wild animals, tortured when found alive, and then looted the dead. This is barbarism, to say the least,” Malayao said.
KAMP says Ambason's participation in the campaigns against large-scale mining is a motive for his brutal torture and killing. Tagdumahan has been campaigning against the entry of various large-scale mining ventures into their their ancestral domain. Last December 2011, Ambason spoke at regional gathering of indigenous peoples led by a Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization about their resistance against the entry of Malampay Mining, Tambuli Mining and the Makilala Mining in their ancestral territory.
“Attacks made against indigenous leaders resisting against destructive, large-scale mining has become a trend in the Aquino administration. The majority of the 18 killings of indigenous peoples under the Aquino administration are in the context of defense of land and life against the entry of mining corporations,” Malayao stated. “Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino's version for a 'peace and development' program is killing off people who stands in the way of corporate profiteering.”
According to KAMP data, there are 507 mining applications covering 1,027,348 hectares approved for mining nickel, copper, gold and other minerals. Roughly 60% of all these applications are on ancestral territories affecting more than 39 tribes. “Aquino is endangering the survival of many indigenous communities in his sell-out of our mineral resources. Many more Filipinos, including indigenous peoples, will be martyred in their valiant defense of ancestral lands and national patrimony. Oplan Bayanihan and mining liberalization is an act of war against the people,” Malayao said.
KAMP demands the immediate pullout of government troops in indigenous communities. “This goes to show how militarization endangers the lives of civilians, they are not deployed to protect and defend the people.”
Photo: Genesis Ambason
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