Even as the grief and rage over the spate of killings in Surigao del Sur has yet to wane, another Lumad activist was slain in the neighboring province of Agusan del Sur.
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – Indigenous peoples and human rights groups condemned the killing of an anti-mining Lumad activist in Agusan del Sur, attributing it to the internal security plan Oplan Bayanihan, and government’s unrelenting push to get its hands on the mineral-rich Lumad ancestral territories.
Lito Abion, 44, a habal-habal (public motorcycle) driver and member of Tagdumahan, was shot dead on Sept. 28, at the public terminal in Purok 2, Doña Flavia in San Luis town, Agusan del Sur, according to an urgent alert of the Higala sa Lumad (Friends of the Lumad) Network.
Dulphing Ogan, secretary general of the Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), said Abion’s killing was meant to “suppress the resistance of the Lumad against large-scale mining and other projects that encroach on the ancestral lands.”
Kalumaran said the Tambuli Mining Company Inc. and Malampay Mining Inc. have been targeting the area for open-pit mining of gold.
In its urgent alert, the Higala sa Lumad Network said at around 12 noon of Sept. 28, Abion was talking to fellow drivers while waiting for passengers, when two men on a motorcycle parked nearby. The passenger got off and approached Abion, then shot him from behind. The two suspects then sped away.
Abion sustained two gunshot wounds in the back and one in the nape.
Witnesses described the suspects’ vehicle as a red Honda XRM motorcycle. A witness recognized it as the same vehicle used by the perpetrators in the killing of Necasio “Angis” Precioso, founding chairperson of Tagdumahan and chairman of Balit village, who was shot dead on Dec. 22, 2014, by suspected soldiers of the 26th Infantry Battalion.
The group Tagdumahan had rejected a proposed consolidation of ancestral lands under the group of Mario Napungahan, reportedly a tribal chieftain who used to be a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu).
Napungahan reportedly pushes to have the lands registered under one Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (Cadt), to facilitate the entry of mining companies.
From Dec. 31, 2014 up to March this year, some 1,000 Banwaons evacuated from four villages of San Luis, following Precioso’s killing, and continued operations by 26th IB soldiers and paramilitary groups who harass tribal chieftains to agree to the unified Cadt.
In 2012, another Tagdumahan member, Genesis Ambason, was killed in an attack by suspected 26th IB soldiers and Cafgu men in Binikalan village, also in San Luis.
“Abion is the third member of Tagdumahan who was killed under President Aquino,” said Piya Macliing-Malayao, secretary general of the Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (Katribu). “They are actively campaigning against the entry of mining in their land, and are constantly tagged as NPA, as they assert their right to self-determination, rather than ancestral land titling. He is another Lumad victim of Aquino’s fascism and Oplan Bayanihan,” she said.
The Higala sa Lumad alert said Tagdumahan members and leaders who refused to acede to the consolidated CADT were red-tagged by Napungahan as NPA members or supporters. The alert said that in 2005, four Tagdumahan leaders – Virgie Solis, Inday Lozada, Mat Morales and Bebot Nuer – were also red-baited and killed by suspected state forces.
During that time, Abion was among those red-tagged, and was forced to leave San Luis. He returned to the town only in 2014.