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A new name is added to the ever rising activists' death toll

Another activist tortured and killed in Mindanao

Tribal activist Genesis Ambason Tribal activist Genesis Ambason
  • Kerima Bulan T. Navales, Davao City
  • Philippines
  • September 21, 2012
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Genesis Ambason and his wife, Almira, were expecting their first child next month, a year after they got married. But the 23-year old would-be father will never see his baby.

Government militia allegedly killed Ambason on September 13 in the village of Binikalan in Agusan del Sur province. The body of the tribal anti-mining activist was found a few meters from a military base. He had sustained several gunshot wounds, his face bore torture marks and all his teeth were missing.

Virginia Saguitan Tugay, Ambason's aunt, said his death was the handiwork of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, a government paramilitary group.

Tugay claimed that she even has the names of her nephew's killers.

"They kill without hesitation," she said, tears rolling down her face. "The history of the Philippines was always like this. Where is democracy?"

Ambason was secretary general of Tagdumahan, an alliance of Banwaon tribal organizations, which opposes large-scale mine development in areas they identify as their ancestral domain. They describe the mining companies’ relentless invasion of these ancient territories, with the cooperation of the government, as a form of oppression.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, a group of Catholic nuns and lay people working in rural communities, said Ambason had led a campaign for the release of five Tagdumahan members who were charged with rebellious activities in June.

A statement from an NGO called Task Force-Justice for Environmental Defenders called the killing of Ambason "deplorable" and offered some chilling statistics.

According to their figures, Ambason was the 55th environmental activist to fall victim to politically motivated assassinations since 2001, as well as the 19th environmental activist and 14th anti-mining activist killed since 2010 alone.

However, the militia group implicated in the killing said Ambason was involved in an armed encounter between troops and the communist New People’s Army.

Higher up the ranks, military leaders denied any involvement in the incident. "The military has got nothing to do with the death of the anti-mining activist," said Lt. Col. Eugene Osia of the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

He added that he would welcome an investigation and that charges should be filed in court.
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