Probe of ‘lumad’ death sought

Mindanao palm oil expansion seen in abuses vs tribes

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DAVAO CITY—Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan has joined calls for an investigation into reports of killings, targeting leaders of indigenous communities and other groups opposed to the entry of agribusiness ventures, particularly palm oil plantations, as these were allegedly being carried out with impunity.

Earlier, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr., chair of the House national communities committee, asked President Aquino to give attention to what he said was the rising number of indigenous people (IP) leaders being killed because of their stand against aggression by investors.

Although he did not cite any figure, Baguilat said among those killed was Higaonon leader Gilbert Paborada, who was vocal against the entry of palm oil company A. Brown Co. Inc. into their ancestral land in Misamis Oriental.

Paborada, Baguilat said in a statement, was the chair of the Higaonon IP group Pangalasag and was killed in Cagayan de Oro on Oct. 3 last year.

Ilagan, a member of the House cultural communities committee, said the problem was A. Brown Co. Inc. did not secure a free and prior and informed consent (FPIC) from the Higaonons before it set up a palm oil plantation on a 520-hectare land in the tribe’s ancestral domain claim.

Ilagan said the failure of the company to secure an FPIC was a clear violation of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act that should be investigated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

Aside from suspicions of involvement in the death of Paborada, she said the company has also been the subject of complaints for its alleged use of hazardous chemicals.

The Inquirer tried but failed to reach an authorized company official.

A fact-finding mission conducted by nongovernment organizations, which included the Pesticides Action Network Asia (PAN AP), issued a report that A. Brown Co. Inc. has been forcing its way into the ancestral lands of the Higaonons and has been harassing “lumad” communities in Misamis Oriental.

“IPs protesting development projects intruding into their ancestral lands without their consent are branded as insurgents or communist sympathizers,” Baguilat said.

“The Red-tagging often leads to assassination and other human rights violations,” he said.

The Inquirer learned that PAN AP,  Peasant Movement of the Philippines, Asian Peasant Coalition, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Sentro Kitanglad, Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization and Pangalasag have launched an online petition aimed at convincing President Aguino to order an investigation into Paborada’s killing. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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