The 11-year-old son of a tribal leader was shot and killed yesterday in an ambush in Zamboangda del Sur province. His father, the likely target, was struck on the left side of his back by a bullet.
Subanen tribal leader Lucenio Manda of Bayog town was driving his son Jordan to school when they were attacked by five armed men at the border of Matin-ao and Datagan villages. Manda is in stable condition. Jordan died on the spot.
Soldiers in the area are searching for the five suspects, military sources said.
Manda has been leading the Subanen tribe in the Zamboanga peninsula since his cousin, Timuay Giovanni Umbang, was assassinated in 2002.
The Subanen have been opposing mining and logging companies moving into the area, especially in the province of Zamboanga del Sur where several large-scale mining corporations have signified their interest to operate there.
The shooting prompted Amnesty International to call for a government investigation.
"Indigenous peoples’ rights have been left behind," said Dr. Aurora Parong, director of Amnesty International Philippines. She said the killing "is a painful reminder that indigenous peoples are not protected."
The Subanens particularly oppose the entry of Canadian company Toronto Ventures Inc. Resource Development which claims to have exclusive mining rights to 4,779 hectares of land in one town alone. The company also has a large-scale mining operation in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte province.
Parong said Manda’s stand for a moratorium on mining concessions in the town of Bayog might have led to the attack on him and his son.
"The killings in Bayog, and other parts affected by mining conflicts, must stop now. An immediate impartial investigation is urgently needed," she said.
The rights group Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders said in a statement that the attack on Manda shows that anti-mining leaders and activists are facing "a clear and present danger" in the area.
The group said 18 environmentalists, 13 of whom were anti-mining activists, have been killed since President Benigno Aquino came to power in 2010. Most of the suspects in the killings are members of the military, paramilitary or security forces of mining companies, it said.
"President Aquino’s failure to stop the persecution and killings of environmental activists in the country shows its inutility if not its tolerance of human rights violations perpetuated against indigenous people and ant-mining activists," said Leon Dulce, a task force spokesperson.
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