Mining Crimes

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, talks to the media at the end of the bishops' plenary session in Manila July 13. (CNS photo/Simone Orendain)

Church leaders in the southern Philippines said the killing 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 the Rev. Bong Galela, social action director of the Diocese of Tandag. In Surigao del Sur province, indigenous peoples, collectively known as Lumads, have been under attack by gunmen of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary 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 diocesan clergy. “We call for the disarming and arrest of the members of the Magahat-Bagani group,” Father Galela told a Philippine Senate panel inquiry on 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.

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