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Anti-mining leader, two children killed in Mindanao

Military blamed for shooting

Joe Torres, Manila

August 23, 2013

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Gunmen have shot and killed an anti-mining tribal leader and his two children in a village on the Philippine island of Mindanao.

Anteng Freay, a B'laan tribal leader, was killed when gunmen strafed his home in the village of Tampakan in South Cotabato province, at about five o'clock on Friday morning, police said. Both his children were also killed.

"This is very sad. This is what happens when the government turns a blind eye to the link between violence and mining in Tampakan," said Redemptorist priest Oliver Castor, a project officer of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, a Church-based organization addressing social justice.

Castor said Freay was active in opposing the activities of London-listed mining company Xstrata, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, in the area.

"How many massacres will it take to make our government act on this?" Castor said.

In October last year, the wife and two children of Dagil Capion, another tribal B’laan leader opposed to Xstrata, were also killed allegedly by soldiers looking for Capion.

Capion is considered a bandit by the military and is being hunted down.

For rights groups the case has turned into a test of how far the current administration under President Benigno Aquino is willing to defend human rights in the Philippines.

The Tampakan mine is the single largest foreign investment in the Philippines at $5.9 billion. 

The area is also home to five tribal communities.

The project has met stiff resistance from tribal communities who claim they have been harassed, threatened and even murdered for their opposition to the mine.

Xstrata received "conditional approval" to operate the mine only in February despite a local law prohibiting open pit mining.

Activists again blamed the military for Friday’s deaths.

Rose Trajano of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates said the "mistakes committed by the military" in the Capion killings seem to have happened again. 

"We appeal to the armed forces … to ensure that the military will respect due process and rule of law," Trajano said.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel has called for a meeting with military officials to get more information on the killings.

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