Company fighting case in media: lawyers
Lawyers say mining giant should show its proof to judges, not reporters
Lawyers representing miners in Mindanao against a Canada-based firm have criticized the company for responding to allegations through the media rather than in a court of law. Legal representatives of the Monte de Oro Small Scale Miners Association (MOSSMA) yesterday challenged TVI Resources Development (TVIRD), a local subsidiary of TVI Pacific Inc, to openly refute allegations of coordinated harassment and intimidation. Earlier this year, MOSSMA charged the company with involvement in a murder conspiracy against local miners. They presented emails that they claimed came from within the company, which showed a coordinated program of targeted killings. The result, they say, was the death of one miner and injury to several others. TVIRD this week told reporters that a review by the National Bureau of Investigation had proven that the emails, which were sent out with a subject line that read “Silent Attack,” were fabrications perpetrated by MOSSMA. The report said investigators found inconsistencies in the URLs of the emails, indicating that they did not come from TVIRD and were “maliciously created.” TVIRD has filed libel and falsification charges against a local councilor, a former and a current employee, all of whom they say were involved in the forgery. The complaint states that “fake emails” and “fraudulent documents” were sent to various addresses, including the media and President Benigno Aquino. But Glocelito C Jayma, a lawyer for the miners' association, said in a press conference that he wanted to see the investigators' report. “Instead of presenting their evidence in court, they present it to the media," he said. "We wonder why they did not bring it to court.” Lawyer Jarley D Sulay-Trugillo, also representing the miners, said what was described in the emails and what happened to his clients was “not coincidence.” “The threats are real. The surveillance is real. And all the negative happenings to our clients coincide with what were described in the emails.” MOSSMA is an organization of around 5,000 small-scale miners, 60 percent of whom belong to the Subanen tribe. Members of the group have been mining in Balabag Hill, which is thought to contain 1.37 million tons of gold and silver, since 1987. The government has issued a contract to TVIRD to operate in the 4,779-hectare mining area in Balabag-Bayog district. The company has already invested at least US$15.5 million in exploration at the site.