File photo shows a community meeting in a Tampakan mining tenement in South Cotabato province. (Photo by Bong S. Sarmiento)
Unknown attackers have shot dead a lay coordinator of the Catholic Church and wounded an altar boy in the southern Philippines.
Domingo Edo, a worker for Marbel Diocese's Social Action Center, and altar boy Ramil Piang, 18, were attacked on Aug. 20 while on their way to lead a bible service in Bong Mal, a remote village in the mining town of Tampakan, South Cotabato, said the diocese's social action head, Father Ariel Destura.
Edo was killed, while Piang was rushed to hospital where he was later declared in stable condition.
Local church leaders condemned the killing, raising possible links with long-running protests against nearby mines.
The church and communities have been at odds with the government and a succession of owners of an open pit that sprawls across the borders of three provinces and ancestral lands of indigenous peoples.
Father Destura said Edo, "had been handling the diocese's anti-mining advocacy using dialogue, and was not known to agitate tribal members against the mining company."
Edo was tasked to spread the gospel in mostly indigenous communities straddled by the Tampakan mining project.
"We are saddened by the death of 'Doming' [Edo]. He was well-loved in the mountains and had no known enemies," the priest told ucanews.com.
Tampakan has the largest known undeveloped copper and gold reserve in Southeast Asia. Ten indigenous people have been killed in years of struggle against mining devlopments.
An official of Sagittarius Mines, Inc., that is behind the Tampakan copper-gold project, declined to comment pending a police investigation.
Rene Pamplona, advocacy officer of the Convergence of Initiatives for Environmental Justice, also condemned the killing of the church worker.
Pamplona appealed for the tribes in Tampakan not to avenge the death of the victim, as is their customary tradition, to avoid further bloodshed.