Sunday, 22 November 2015

Dear friends, we are circulating this Open Letter to President Benigno Aquino III from a hundred concerned Canadians - indigenous peoples, parliamentarians, Protestant bishops and church lay workers, trade union leaders, anti-mining and human rights activists, university professors, lawyers, Filipino migrants, journalists, artists, doctors and health professionals, and many others - to stop the attacks against the Lumad. The letter was sent to the Office of the President and all concerned Philippine authorities. Thank you very much.

An Open Letter to President Benigno Aquino from Concerned Canadians
Stop the Systematic Attacks on Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao

Dear President Aquino,

We, the undersigned individuals and organizations in Canada, are writing to express our urgent concerns regarding the violent attacks on Indigenous Peoples (Lumads) in Mindanao allegedly perpetrated by members of the Philippine Armed Forces and by paramilitary groups that are reportedly created and armed by the military and operating under its command. Human Rights Watch reports that "these forces are committing killings, torture, forced displacement and harassment of residents, students and educators with impunity."

We are deeply alarmed by the systematic escalation of the campaign of attack on Lumads in recent months. Of the 58 victims of Lumad killings since 2010, 14 of the victims including Lumad children were killed from March–September 2015. Eleven of the victims were killed in 3 gruesome massacres.

· On June 14, 2015, three Lumad leaders in Paquibato, Davao were reportedly killed when military troops strafed the residence of the leader of a local farmers’ association.
· On August 18th 2015, five members of the Manobo tribe, including a 70-year-old blind farmer and 2 children were massacred in Pangantucan, Bukidnon by the 3rd Company of the 1st Special Batallion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. 

· On September 1, 2015, members of a paramilitary group called Magahat allegedly killed Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Development, Inc.(ALCADEV) and two Lumads, and threatened to massacre the entire community causing the people to flee their community. 

We strongly condemn the use of local paramilitary groups to sow terror among their own people resulting in mass displacement and evacuation of approximately 40,000 Lumads. 

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and the Sisters Association of Mindanao maintain that the attack on ALCADEV was not an isolated incident. Since April of 2014, 25 Lumad schools have been forced to halt operations due to military harassment and on the orders of the Department of Education. At least 84 separate attacks on 57 schools have displaced and disrupted the education of over 3,000 Lumad children. We strongly condemn this grave violation of children’s right to education.

As Canadians, we are concerned by reports that the Philippine government is sanctioning these military operations under its counter-insurgency program, Operation Plan Bayanihan, in order to suppress the resistance of Indigenous communities and clear the way for the entry of mining and other resource extraction companies. We are deeply troubled to learn that Canadian companies are among those having mining exploration or applications in these Lumad villages now under severe military and paramilitary attacks. 

We support the rights of Lumad Peoples to struggle for social justice and self-determination within their ancestral territories, as embodied in the UN declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We support their struggle to defend their ancestral lands. We call on the Philippine government to respect the Lumads’ right to determine their own path to prosperity and to resist development plans on their land they believe will not benefit their communities.

We support the call of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao for the termination of the counter-insurgency program that justifies the systematic attacks on Indigenous Peoples.

We call on you as the President to order the immediate pull out of military troops from Lumad territories, to dismantle the paramilitary groups, to end the militarization of Lumad schools, to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of the killings as well as those in the chain of command, and to indemnify the victims of these atrocities. 

Furthermore, we support the call of the Filipino people for the resumption of the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in order to bring peace to these communities.


Perry Bellegarde, National Chief, Assembly of First Nations 
Phil Fontaine, former National Chief, Assembly of First Nations & Officer of the Order of Canada
Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief, Grand Council of the Crees and former National Chief Assembly of First Nations Hon. Hon. Florfina Marcelino, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba
Hon. Mable Elmore, Member of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia
The Very Rev. the Honourable Lois M Wilson, Senator (retired) Companion of Order of Canada
The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop
The Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell, Moderator, The United Church of Canada
Paul Moist, National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Mike Palecek, National President, Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Emmanuelle Tremblay, National President, Canadian Association of Professional Employees
James Clancy, National President, National Union of Public and General Employees
Paul Meinema, National President, United Food and Commercial Workers Union
Robyn Benson, National President, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Very Rev. Terry Brown, Bishop-in-charge, Church of the Ascension, Hamilton, Ont.
Thomas Saras, President and CEO, National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada
Jim Manly, Member of Parliament (1980-1988)
Dr. Catherine Coumans, Asia Coordinator, Mining Watch
Monia Mazigh, Director, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Jennifer Henry, Executive Director, KAIROS, Canadian Churches Ecumenical Justice Initiative 
Alan Quinn, Director of Intl. Programs, Leger Foundation
Jess Agustin, Asia program officer, Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
Mary Boyd, Director, MacKillop Centre for Social Justice
Meeka Otway, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
Atty. Tim Louis, Co-Chair, Coalition of Progressive Electors 
Atty. Michael Leitold, Steering Committee, Law Union of Ontario
Dr. Philip Kelly, Director, York Centre of Asian Studies, York University 
Dr. Geraldine Pratt, Associate Dean, Dept. of Sociology, University of British Columbia
Dr. Dominique Caouette, Centre d’études de l’Asie de l’Est, Université de Montréal 
Dr. Jill Hanley, Graduate Program Director, Dept. of Social Work, McGill University
Dr. Chin Banerjee, Coordinator, South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy
Rev. Jonathan Schmidt, Director, Canadian Churches Forum for Global Ministries
Kelly Moist, 2nd National President, Canadian Union of Public Employees
Dave Bleakney, 2nd National Vice-President Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Zenee May Maceda, National Representative, United Food and Commercial Workers Union
Atty. Charlotte Kates, Coordinator, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoners Solidarity Network
Aiyanas Ormond, Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle in Canada
Bern Jagunos, Coordinator, International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines Canada
Teresa Agustin, Chair, Migrante Canada
Rhea Gamana, General Secretary, Anakbayan Canada
Dr. Chandu Claver, Chair, BAYAN Canada
Pura Velasco, Chair, Caregivers Action Centre 
Hermie Garcia and Mila Astorga-Garcia, Publishers & co-editors, The Philippine Reporter 
Edwin Mercurio, President, Negrense Asociacion
Jessie W. Tuldague- President, Ifugao Association of Canada 
Ben Corpuz, Vice President, Philippine Independence Day Council
Petronila Cleto, Chair, GABRIELA Ontario 
Ace Montevirgen, President, CaSaMa-Zambales association
Hanna Kawas, Chairperson, Canada Palestine Association
Bert Monterona – International muralist
Irene Landry, Education consultant
Dr. Ravi Pendakur, Professor, Graduate School of Public and Intèl.Affairs, University of Ottawa
Dr. Rebecca Schein, Academic Supervisor Human Rights at Carleton University 
Dr. Denise L. Spitzer, Professor, Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, Université d'Ottawa
Camilla Gibb, Professor in Social Justice, Victoria College, University of Toronto
Dr. Stephen Collis - Poet and Professor,, Simon Fraser University
Dr. Valerie Raoul - Professor Emerita, Women's Studies, University of British Columbia
Dr. Leonora Angeles - Associate Professor, Women's and Gender Studies University of British Columbia
Dr. Rupa Banerjee, GATES Research Team, Ryerson University
Dr. Suzan Ilcan, Department Of Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Waterloo, Canada
Dr. Daniel O'Connor, Department Of Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Waterloo, Canada 
Dr. Robert Diaz, Associate Professor, Ontario College of Art and Design University
Dr. Brian McDougall – Instructor, Carleton University
Bill Skidmore, Academic Advisor Human Rights Program, Carleton University
Dr. Jorge Frozzini, Professeur,Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Dr. Aziz Choudry, Associate Professor, Dep’t Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University
Dr. Mélanie Dufour-Poirier, Professeure adjointe, Université de Montréal
Dr. Donald Swartz, Carleton School of Public Policy and Administration (Retired)
Rev. Shaun Fryday, Coordinator – Beaconsfield Initiative, United Church of Canada
Rev. Keith Simmonds, President, British Columbia Conference United Church of Canada
Rev. Rosemary Lambie, General Secretary, Montreal Ottawa Conference, United Church of Canada
Alden Habacon, Director, Intercultural Understanding, Equity and Inclusion, Univ. of British Columbia
Rev. Patricia Lissom, Director, St. Columba House
Rev. Desmond Jagger-Parsons, Head of delegation, 2014 Canadian Churches Philippine Learning Tour
Janet Gray -Regional Coordinator, KAIROS (BC-Yukon)
Janet McIntosh, Coordinator, KAIROS Metro Vancouver
Charles Boylan, Chair, International Solidarity Committee Local 21, Fed. of Post- Secondary Educators
Kate Murray, Moderator, Mining Justice Alliance, Vancouver
Martha Roberts, RM- Chairperson, Alliance for People’s Health
Santiago Escobar, Chair, Hugo Chavez Peoples' Defense Front
Ysabel Tuason, Ontario Public Interest Research Group, Peterborough, ON 
Parvin Ashfari, Coordinator, Iranian Centre for Peace, Freedom and Justice 
Gloria Pavez, Coordinator, Cafe Rebelde Collective
Suzanne Baustad, Founding member, Grassroots Women
Atty. Charlotte Kates, Coordinator, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoners
Paco Tejero, Founding member, Canada Philippines Solidarity Committee
Catherine Hooper, C.M, OLPH Church Social Justice Committee, Chateauguay
Paulina Corpuz, President , Philippine Advancement Through Arts and Culture
Nicole Cajucom, Executive Director, Kapisanan Philippine Centre 
Rev. Dante Coloma, Philippine Independent Church- Mission of Holy Child-Greater Toronto Area
Honorio Guerrero, Director, Kathara Indigenous Pilipino Arts Collective Society
Dr. Alexandra Law, Board Member, Immigrant Workers Centre
Dr. Eric Shragge, Principal (retired), Community and Public Affairs, Concordia University
Dr. Martin Gallié, Professor of Law, Université du Québec à Montréal
Cora Santiago Aberin, President, Filipino Association of Montreal and Suburbs (FAMAS)
Fiel Salazar, Chairperson, PINAY - Filipino Women's Organization of Quebec
Attorney Me Walter Chiyan Tom, Pinay Legal information Clinic
Kat Estacio, Coordinator, Pantayo Collective
Fr. Expedito Farinas - Rector, St. Mary (Anglican) Church Hill
Jojo Geronimo, member, ACLA (Asian Canadian Labour Alliance) 
Sahar Golshan, member, Canadian Roots Exchange
Jennifer Noonan, Cree-Irish, Portland, OR
Rev. Irene Ty and Lee Holland
Attorney May Chiu

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


Repeal EO 546! Disband Paramilitary Groups and Militias in the Philippines!

Dear President Benigno S. Aquino III:
We, the undersigned, hold you to your electoral promise in 2010 that your office would repeal Executive Order 546 legalizing the formation and funding of state-sponsored armed civilian groups otherwise known as “force multipliers,” militias, auxiliary armed units, and civilian volunteer organizations. 
This was in reaction to the Ampatuan Massacre where 58 civilians were killed by a combined force of 200 police elements and their armed civilian volunteers, under orders from a powerful politician identified with and supported by the previous regime.
Since its inception, EO 546 has created monstrous bands of mercenaries, murderers, and thugs controlled and directed by the Armed Forces to terrorize civilian populations, and murder journalists, environmentalists, members of the church, and human rights workers who follow their conscience and stand with communities being forcibly driven out from their lands by big corporate interests.
As one of your election promises, you said emphatically: “I will revoke EO546. Never again will public funds be used to support and maintain a private security force.”
Since then, Mr. President, you have shown no intent or political will to abide by your promise, which is why the culture of impunity continues to wreak havoc on human rights, and among the ranks of human rights advocates in the Philippines.
The same law has been used by power-hungry politicians and warlords to maintain no less than 250 private army groups all over the country. The existence of these armed groups may also account for the proliferation of 800,000 firearms that according to military sources, could not be accounted for.
After five years of countless extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations by these armed groups, you continue to ignore the recommendations of international bodies such as the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International to repeal the law. You have instead supplemented the law by authorizing the formation of “Investment Defense Forces,” paramilitary groups that are trained by the AFP but are in the payroll of big mining companies. 
Your inaction and militarist approach, Mr. President, has earned for the country the distinction of being the third most dangerous place for journalists, Asia’s most dangerous place for environmentalists, and  a top place in the World Impunity Index—distinctions that shame and enrage us.
These days, the AFP and its militias are again on the rampage in Mindanao.
In Surigao del Sur, the AFP’s Magahat-Bagani paramilitary forces murdered Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of the twice-awarded Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, along with community leaders Dionel Campos and Belio Sinzo last September 1. In 2011, members of these paramilitary groups also murdered Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian priest working with indigenous communities.
In Bukidnon, 5 Manobo indigenous lumads, among them a 70-year old blind man and two children were massacred on suspicion of being rebels. A 14-year old student was also raped by three militia men.
In Davao, the Alamara vigilante group caused hundreds of Manobos to flee their village after they were threatened to be executed by the Alamara members.
All over Mindanao are reports of terror-stricken civilians whose communities have been overrun by militias and soldiers, their schools occupied and forcibly closed, their lives and livelihood disrupted and destroyed.
Mr. President, we stand with our indigenous brothers and sisters in Mindanao. We call on your office to respect indigenous rights to land and life. We call on your office to uphold basic human rights as enshrined in the UN International Declaration of Human Rights.
The indigenous people of Mindanao, and the many other Filipinos all over the country who have been suffering abuses or have lost their lives in the hands of your armed forces, are crying out for justice.
Mr. President: disband, disarm and stop funding paramilitary groups, militias and private armies in the Philippines. Repeal Executive Order 546 now!
“I heard from the AFP its assertion that it is seeking to protect the communities and provide services to them in conflict regions; however the displaced IPs made it clear that it is their presence and that of the paramilitary groups in their communities that continues to create anxiety amongst the indigenous communities. The community wishes to return to its lands but stressed to me that they will only feel safe to do so if the long-term militarization of their region comes to an end and they can return with guarantees of safety, dignity and protection. They described to me their concerns including their alleged forced recruitment into paramilitary groups, known as Alamara, under the auspices of the AFP and harassment in the context of the on-going conflict between the AFP and the NPA “
Statement of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani, on the conclusion of his official visit to the Philippines, 21 to 31 July 2015.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

People’s scientists and communities are using science to make mining companies and governments accountable.

Dr.Mark Muller of the London Mining Network at the IPCM press conference (Photo by D.Ayroso/
Dr.Mark Muller of the London Mining Network at the IPCM press conference (Photo by D.Ayroso/

MANILA – Mining-affected communities and environmentalists are finding ways to make mining TNCs and colluding governments account for environmental crimes, using that which had been largely accessible only to the latter: science.

At the recently-concluded International People’s Conference on Mining (IPCM), activists from mining-affected communities and people’s scientists discussed community-based scientific tools and methods to help people investigate corporate mining accountability.

The IPCM, held in Quezon City on July 30 to Aug.1, gathered more than 140 delegates from 29 countries to discuss international response to the impacts on people and the environment brought on by global mining liberalization.

“People’s scientists will challenge the failing science of the mining industry,” said Dr. Mark Muller, a geophysicist and member of the London Mining Network with over 20 years experience in the mining industry. He added that mining TNCs “continue to pollute the world” even with their use of science.

“The mining industry believes that they have complete monopoly of scientific knowledge and methods,” Muller said, adding that 95 percent of scientists in the world are employed by mining and oil companies.

The IPCM, however, paves the way for the formation of a global network of scientists that will provide technical information to communities and movements confronting mining TNCs.
“I’m confident that one of the outcomes of the conference is that we will identify tools and strategies that will allow community people to use good, robust science to use as evidence to hold companies accountable and hold them to their responsibility to mine, if they are allowed to mine, without polluting the environment,” Muller said.

How communities can monitor mining pollution
“Mining pollution comes from companies’ failure to monitor their mining during operations,” he said. Because of the failure of corporate mining to fulfil their responsibility, the burden of monitoring environmental impact falls on mining-affected communities.

“There is terrible irony here, that these expensive tests, mining companies can afford to use them, and yet, they don’t use them effectively,” he said. When mining-affected communities approach these companies with the results of their own investigation, they reject it “because they were not recorded using expensive methodology.”

In his presentation at an IPCM workshop, Muller said communities should monitor for possible pollution at different stages of mining, namely: in the water, during the exploration stage; in the soil, during the construction of the mines; and in the air, during operation and production. A biodiversity survey should also be conducted to measure degradation during the closure and rehabilitation of the mine.

In spite of their limited resources, Muller said, community residents can still do a lot to understand what is about to happen or what has happened in their environment.
Even only in the exploration stage, community residents should be made aware of what to expect. One such activity during exploration is trenching, which could cause scarring of landscape, loss of vegetation, and possible erosion. Trenches should also be properly rehabilitated.

The residents could take photos and video documentation of the company’s drilling rigs and other survey equipment, and trenching, Muller said.
A biologist from AGHAM testing the physico-chemical charactertics of the massively polluted Didipio River. (Photo by AGHAM/Kalikasan PNE/
A biologist from AGHAM testing the physico-chemical charactertics of the massively polluted Didipio River. (Photo by AGHAM/Kalikasan PNE/

Depending on what ore body or mineral will be mined, scientists aiding the community can help estimate mining depth, what methods, equipment and processing will be used by the company, for an early indication of potential risks and impact, he said.

When the mining company begins drilling, at the mid- to late-stage of the exploration, it will also build a mud-pit or mud tank, which will contain drilling “mud” – a combination of fine rock materials, and chemical additives required for the drilling fluid. This is toxic in varying degrees, depending on the chemical additives, said Muller.

“Drilling mud poses an environmental risk: rivers and soils will become contaminated if the mud-pit overflows in heavy rains or if the pit-lining fails,” said a slide from Muller’s presentation.

During mine operation, Muller said there should be monitoring to check if waste materials are “turning acid” in the disposal areas – the waste-rock disposal, or rock dumps, and the mine tailings dams. Acid mine drainage (AMD) can contaminate ground water. He said that if sulphide materials are present in the waste dumps, it is likely that AMD will occur.

He said that mining companies are duty-bound to monitor pollution threats at different stages. Companies should:
• Take a baseline sample of water quality a year prior to mine operation;
• Regularly monitor the water quality according to their environmental impact management plan;
• Conduct a laboratory chemical analysis of water samples from upstream and downstream the mines;
• And submit a report of the results regularly to mining regulatory bodies.

Tools for the people
“To understand the problems caused by mining companies in the environment, communities can do these, too, but tools are expensive,” Muller said.

There are many tools available for community to monitor the water quality, but these vary in accuracy, he added.

These range from the cheaper-priced litmus paper and testing strips, ph checkers used by aquarium hobbyists, to the more expensive but also more accurate digital probes for long-term testing used by the hydroponic industry.

Aside from the expensive cost of tools and laboratory tests, Muller said communities also face legal defensibility, as there are strict protocols in getting samples for testing. Companies can also reject the test results, on grounds that the community used the cheaper, therefore, less accurate tools. Communities must consider these factors in their monitoring.

“When doing analysis, ask what the result will be,” advised Australian Prof. Ron Watkins, of the Environmental Inorganic Geochemistry Group, who spoke at the IPCM. He said it is not meant to pre-empt the results, but to effectively choose what instrument to use, to ensure the test will yield needed answers.

Science as basis of unity
The group Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), which led the workshop, said science may also be a tool to unite the people, to fight back against destructive mining companies and a government that tolerates them.

Feny Cosico, Agham secretary general, said the environmental investigation mission (EIM) combines local community experience with the field investigation led by scientists and technologists.

The EIM is a participatory process which investigates the biophysical, social, political and economic impact of the project on the people, said Cosico in her presentation.
Investigation includes testing the soil and water quality around the mining area, using physical, chemical and biological parameters. It also studies the effects on the health, livelihood, and perception of the population on the impact of the project. After the data collection and laboratory analysis, the experts return to the community to validate the results with the people.

“We use the EIM as a transformative tool, to raise awareness of communities,” said Cosico.
“Sometimes we use it to unite a divided community, through expert findings,” she said. There are cases where some community members buy the line of the mining company that there is no pollution, or doubt that they could make a case about environmental degradation. The conduct of an EIM, which involves community participation, helps remove all doubt.
Agham had joined in the conduct of EIM in the Citinickel project in Española, Palawan island, in the Philex tailings dam breach in Benguet, in the Cordillera region, and in Nueva Vizcaya where the OceanGold is mining, and the FCF is conducting exploration.
She said the EIM helps countercheck government regulation and compliance of the companies to environmental laws and policies. These were also valuable in lobbying with government regulatory bodies and even the legislative, to investigate the violations of companies.

Most of all, it serves as “a tool for mobilizing, in uniting the people to fight back,” Cosico said.

Cosico said through the EIM, communities are able to “identify the exploited and the exploiter.”

She said among the limitations in conducting the EIM are budget constraints, lack of baseline data, and government confidentiality for the environmental impact statement (EIS) by the mining company. She said there were also questions on the credibility and accuracy of the EIM.

“We stand by our result, because we know it’s scientific, and with community participation,” Cosico said.

Cosico said with the support mechanism among people’s scientists from the IPCM, she is hopeful that “we can make use of tools to pursue cases against destructive mining companies.”
(File photo courtesy of Katribu /
(File photo courtesy of Katribu /

People’s action as primary
Having the tools and training to monitor the effects of mining will bring light on the extent of destruction and violations by the company, but these are not the only weapons to hold them accountable, the delegates said.

The people’s determined, collective action is still more decisive.

In the case of OceanaGold Corp. in Nueva Vizcaya province, the result of an EIM in April 2014, led by the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayano para sa Kalikasan (Annvik) along with Agham, helped spur residents to action. But even years before, the affected communities have been putting up barricades and protests.

In April this year, Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno proposed a multi-disciplinary team to investigate OceanaGold. This was in response to a position paper submitted by Annvik, Agham and Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and other groups, calling for the suspension of OceanaGold and for compensation to the affected communities.

“The case of OceanaGold’s Didipio mine, widely acclaimed within the large-scale mining industry as ‘the overall safest mining operation in the Philippines’, is illustrative of the pollutive, destructive, and dangerous brand of ‘responsible mining’ permitted and encouraged by our mining laws and other related policies,” the groups said in their position paper.

The paper was supported with the EIM report which showed that affected rivers have unsafe levels of metal concentration.

The groups still await government action. Meanwhile, the campaign against OceanaGold and other destructive, large-scale mining in the Cagayan Valley region continues to gain support from various sectors, including the Catholic church.

At the IPCM, a South African delegate described a rapid assessment kit that they developed to monitor the effects of mining.

“It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a solution that empowers,” he said.
And an empowered people may just be the best tool to take on mining giants. In various parts of the world, communities will be facing TNCs like OceanaGold, both with their strength in numbers, and their science.