Justice for slain indigenous leader remains elusive one year on
Manila, Philippines, 3 December 2018 – It has been a year since indigenous leader Victor Danyan and seven others were killed in South Cotabato, in Mindanao, in what international NGO Global Witness described in a report was a military attack.
“We are one with the Taboli-Manobo community, who mourn the senseless killing of their members and who are calling for the cancellation of a government-issued agreement, which is the root of this tragedy,” said Norly Grace Mercado, executive director of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center.
On 3 December 2017, Danyan and seven others were killed in Sitio Datal, in the village of Ned, in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. According to statements from the military, Danyan and the others were caught in a crossfire between the military and rebel groups, belying the Global Witness report. Danyan belonged to the T’boli-Manobo S’daf Claimants Organization (TAMASCO), which is locked in a 29-year struggle over land with Silvicultural Industries Incorporated (SII).
SII runs 1,800-hectare Dawang Coffee Plantation, 300 hectares of which belong TAMASCO, which was headed by Datu Victor before his death.
SII operates the plantation through an agreement issued by issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). TAMASCO had resisted the agreement and the encroachment of SII into their territory, but SII won out in the end.
However, this agreement was renewed in 2016 without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of TAMASCO – a gross violation of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA).
This was, for Datu Victor, an indication that the DENR had taken the side of SII. But because TAMASCO had not issued their FPIC, Datu Victor began to cut coffee trees owned planted by Dawang Coffee Plantation within the ancestral land of TAMASCO. He had wanted to clear the land for farming. Months later, Danyan would be killed when the military opened fired on the community, according to an article in The Guardian.
“We demand DENR to cancel the agreement that allows SII to encroach on the territory of the Taboli-Manobo. This coffee plantation has not improved the lives of members of TAMASCO and has instead set into motion a chain of events that led to the gruesome massacre of the TAMASCO 8,” said Mercado.
“We also ask the military and rebel forces to pull out of the ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples. The government must end the militarization of ancestral domains,” said Mercado. // ENDS
The Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) is a non-government organization that provides legal servicing and campaign and advocacy support to indigenous peoples struggling with issues related to natural resources management.