Amid holidays, another anti-mining village chieftain killed

January 6, 2015

By RMP-NMR
Body of Balit village chieftain Necasio “Angis” Precioso in a coffin.

Balit village chieftain, Necasio “Angis” Precioso. Image from RMP-NMR

Hundreds of indigenous peoples and friends marched along slain indigenous leader, Angis, to take him to his final resting place amid harassments from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during the burial activity.

Sunday last week, former village chieftain of Balit, Necasio “Angis” Precioso, was felled by alleged members of the 26th Infantry Battalion (26th IB), while he was walking towards his son in Kilometro-2, Barangay Nuevo Trabajo, San Luis, Agusan Del Sur.

According to the report of Karapatan-Caraga, the two gunmen on a black and white Honda XRM motorcycle without a plate number had come out of the barangay gym of Plabia where the 26th IB was based and followed Precioso’s son, Neco, when he passed by the said gym. Precioso who was coming from Barangay Balit with another son, Reyjoy, had stopped along the road when he saw Neco’s motorcycle to switch phones with him.

Precioso did not survive the attack and immediately fell down while his sons who were able to jump into a ditch along the road were indiscriminately fired at by the perpetrators.

Huge loss

Fr. Antonio Bayud from the Missionaries of Sacred Heart who presided the burial mass, said his death is heavier than Mount Everest because he served the people.

“The death of a person who served the people is a lot heavier than Mount Everest. But a death of a person who does not serve the people is as light as a feather,” Bayud said.

Precioso’s wife, Rosalina Precioso, said he was a “good husband and father.” She said he did not only serve the needs of the family but as a Datu of the Banwaon indigenous community, he also acted to address the immediate and long-term needs of the society and their community.

She added that her husband served the people until his death. He died defending the community against the red-tagging of their community members by the AFP.

“Since he is now dead, I hope that we can find another leader who shares the same attitude as my husband,” she sobbed.

Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Lumad Regional Organization, said his death is a huge loss to the villagers and the people. He added that Precioso was active in their campaign against the entry of mining companies in Agusan Del Sur.

Goaynon furthered that Precioso is the founding chairman of Tagdumahan which is against the militarization of communities through their Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD).

As the founding chairman, Goaynon said Precioso was specifically against Malampay, Makilala and Tambuli mining companies in San Luis, La Paz and Talacogon. In areas where resistance against the entry of mining companies and agro-industrial plantations is strong, the AFP under Oplan Bayanihan will initiate the COPD to quell the dissent and pave the way for the exploitative industries.

“Through the COPD, the community members are accused of being members of the New People’s Army and will be subjected to questioning and intimidation,” Goaynon said. “In most cases, the AFP will resort to harassment and killings to tone down the resistance of the community. The death of Precioso is one of the many cases in Northern Mindanao. Human rights activists, human and land rights defenders are killed defending what they believe in.”

Military Involvement

“It’s Villaganas. It must be under the command of Master Sargent Andres Villaganas,” Datu Mampadayag, a member of the Banwaon Tribal Council said.

He said that before the assassination, Precioso and Villaganas had an argument about the accusations of the 26th IB that community members of Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan Del Sur are supporters or members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

“We are all suspected members and supporters of the NPA until we can prove to them that we are not,” Dampadayag said, adding they have to ‘clear’ their names to the AFP.

Records from Karapatan-Caraga stated that the AFP started their Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) in the village on November 7 this year.

Last December 20, 2014 Villaganas called the attention of village councillor Arnold Andreca and blamed him for the streamers against the COPD in the village hall. The community through their organization Tagdumahan was against the military presence in their village.

On December 21, Villaganas sought the presence of Jonas Acosta and Allan Baluado who were both members of Tagdumahan. Due to their fear, they brought chairman Precioso with them along with the village councillors and tribal datus. Later that day, Precioso confronted Villaganas without fear about his accusations. Villaganas then denied that he made such accusations although he said it in the presence of village councillor Andreca.

The denial of Villaganas made Precioso angry since when he had problems with the military he would directly speak with them. Although the confrontation ended in a friendly gesture, it was a hollow gesture, with both holding grudges against the other after the argument.

Second anti-mining indigenous village chieftain killed

Under the watch of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Angis is the second anti-mining indigenous village chieftain killed after Jimmy Liguyon of the village of Dao in San Fernando, Bukidnon.

Liguyon was gunned down by members of the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army for Reform (NIPAR) in front of his family on March 5, 2012.  He refused to sign the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) peddled by NIPAR.

The CADC was believed to facilitate the entry of extractive businesses inside the 52,000-ha Matigsalog ancetral lands.

Disrespectful

During the wake of Precioso, elements of the 26th IB were still conducting surveillance operations in the area.

Jimboy Gallino, a resident of Balit, said that around 6 a.m. two military personnel from the 26th IB were conducting surveillance operations on a red Honda XRM motorcycle. After two hours, 12 army personnel were seen roving just 150 meters away from the house of Precioso.

While two army personnel were within the vicinity of the village hall where the burial mass was conducted, two batches of intelligence officers were deployed to gather information about the people attending the mass.

Eliza Rose Pangilinan, secretary-general of Karapatan-Caraga, said the first group admitted that they were members of the army and it was their job to gather information about the activity. The marshal of the activity had approached them and checked their cellphones. Upon checking the memory card, photos and videos of the people attending the activity were found. The second group of intelligence officers brought with them DSLR and video cameras. Guised as members of the media, the group boldly joined the burial mass. They were apprehended by the community and the photos and videos they got were deleted.

Pangilinan said what the AFP did was a disrespect to the burial mass of Precioso. “It shows their involvement in the death of Precioso. This was a blatant disrespect to the traditions and beliefs of the people,” she said, adding that the harassment during the burial mass shows the true nature of COPD, disrespectful to the dead and the grieving. ###