Updated: October 02, 2014 10:25 PM GMT
Timuay Lencio Arig, the late leader of the Teduray tribe in Maguindanao province (Photo courtesy of the Mindanao Peoples' Peace Movement)
Gunmen on Thursday shot and killed a tribal leader who was known to be an avid campaigner for indigenous peoples’ rights in the southern Philippines.
Timuay Lencio Arig, leader of the Teduray tribe in Maguindanao province, was shot and killed by two masked men in the town of South Upi.
Arig was on his way home from a wedding party with his wife and daughter when the gunmen struck in the village of Romongaub. His wife and daughter survived the attack.
Authorities said they are investigating but as yet have found no motive for the killing.
"Nothing has been found yet, except for empty shells of an M16 rifle," said a local police officer who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Arig was known to be an effective negotiator when it came to peaceful resolution of conflicts because of his cordial demeanor, his niece Marilyn said.
"We are praying for justice, but most importantly, let us pray for him and his community," Marilyn said.
Arig was a member of the Council of Elders of the Timuay Justice and Governance, a group of tribal leaders in the province of Maguindanao.
The group has been fighting for 201,000 hectares of land that indigenous groups in the area call their ancestral domain. The land straddles 11 towns of the Muslim-dominated province.
Before his death, Arig had been urging tribes in the area to protect their territory against the intrusion of lowlanders, including the entry of mining companies.
Piya Macliing Malayao, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines, said mining has become the "biggest bane to indigenous peoples" in the Philippines.
"We are the government’s sacrificial lamb on the altar of foreign investors in mining and logging, oil palm plantations, energy projects, special economic zones, real estate and tourism projects," she told ucanews.com.
She underscored the increasing number of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples in the country, adding that 47 indigenous peoples have already been assassinated since 2010. At least six of those who died were children.
"Indigenous peoples continue to be under attack as they resist massive dislocation and environmental destruction of their ancestral lands," she said.
Before he died, Arig was active in urging the government to include indigenous peoples in the proposed Bangsamoro region that will be established as part of the peace deal between the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
"He actively participated in the discussions, especially for the recognition of our right over our ancestral lands," said Timuay Alim Bandara, a fellow tribal leader.
Bandara said everybody is in the dark over the killing of Arig.
"We looked up to him for advocating peace," said Bandara. "What could be more shocking than to know that a man of peace becomes a victim of violence?"
Bandara, however, said the death of Arig should not weaken the struggle of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.
"We cannot be discouraged or be scared," he said. "We are grieving over his death, but all the more that we must stand for our rights as a tribute to him," Bandara added.