Mindanao Church leaders link tribal killings to mining operations

(UCAN) Church leaders in the southern Philippines said the killings of tribal leaders and the harassment suffered by indigenous peoples in Mindanao are related to mining operations in the area.

“The [tribal people] who firmly stand against mining activities were the ones being intimidated by paramilitary forces,” said Father Bong Galela, social action director of the Diocese of Tandag.

In the province of Surigao del Sur, indigenous peoples, collectively known as Lumads, have been under attack by gunmen of the paramilitary Magahat-Bagani Force.

Human rights groups alleged that the Philippine military trained and funded the group to go after communist rebels in the hinterlands of Mindanao.

The allegation was supported by clergy of the Diocese of Tandag.

“We call for the disarming and arrest of the members of the Magahat-Bagani group,” Father Galela told a Senate panel inquiry Oct. 1.

“We also demand the government to ensure that there will be no cover-up in the investigation of these gruesome murders,” the priest said. [More]