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Filipino groups slam arrest of indigenous leader

Activists question motives behind arrest of opponent of large-scale mining

<p>Genasque Enriquez, vice-chairman of the Katribu Party and secretary general of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples Organization. (Photo courtesy of Karapatan)</p>

Genasque Enriquez, vice-chairman of the Katribu Party and secretary general of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples Organization. (Photo courtesy of Karapatan)

  • Joe Torres, Manila
  • Philippines
  • August 25, 2014
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Human rights and tribal groups condemned the arrest on Friday of an indigenous leader in the southern Philippine city of Surigao.

The army accused Genasque Enriquez, vice-chairman of the Katribu Party and secretary general of the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples Organization in Caraga, of three counts of attempted murder.

Enriquez posted bail on Saturday with the assistance of rights groups, Church people, and civil society organizations.

"This is clearly another case of state harassment against progressive leaders and organizations to silence us amid the mounting public clamor for change," said Naty Castro, secretary general of human rights group Karapatan.

Castro said Enriquez's arrest was part of a "disturbing trend to further curtail our civil liberties".

Enriquez, leader of the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur province, openly campaigned against large-scale mining operations and military operations in the Caraga region. 

Beverly Longid, president of the Katribu Party, said the charges filed against Enriquez were part of "a vile attempt of the military to stop Enriquez in his activism on the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples rights".

"This is an old tactic of the military. They vilify as terrorists, linking members and leaders of legitimate organizations and progressive partylist groups to underground revolutionary organizations," said Longid. 

Enriquez was arrested shortly after attending a press conference to send off a delegation attending the People’s Initiative Congress against the Pork Barrel System in Cebu City on Monday.

Enriquez is a known leader of groups that oppose a large-scale mining operation in Surigao province that has reportedly caused environmental degradation and displacement of tribal peoples.

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