Gunmen kill Mindanao miners’ leader

Published by rudy Date posted on April 16, 2011

ZAMBOANGA CITY: Unidentified gunmen shot dead a militant leader who heads a group of small scale miners in the southern Philippines, local human rights groups said Friday.

It said at least four gunmen were involved in Tuesday attack that killed Santos Manrique in the town of Pantukan in Compostela Valley province in Mindanao.

Manrique, 49, was having dinner when gunmen barged in his house and shot him repeatedly and then fled on motorcycles.

“The blame for Manrique’s death falls squarely on the shoulder of President Aquino, who has not taken concrete steps to punish those responsible for extrajudicial killings in the ranks of the workers and other marginalized sectors,” said Emma Ricaforte, executive director of the Mindanao-based Nonoy Librado Development Foundation.

Ricaforte’s group, which is backing workers’ rights and their welfare, condemned the killing and blamed Aquino’s inaction in resolving extrajudicial killings for the continuing atmosphere of impunity in the country.

Last year when Aquino was elected president, the former senator said he would put a stop to extrajudicial killings, which is widespread in the Philippines. Human rights groups have blamed most of the killings to the military and its militias.

“Until we see proof that the number of deaths and other human rights violations are going down and that perpetrators are being punished, we will consider this administration’s proclamations cheap talk,” she said.

Ricaforte expressed fear that Manrique would just be another unsolved death. She said that the mining leader was a great loss because he bravely opposed the operations of large-scale mining companies. “At the time of his death, he led the stand against the Nationwide Development Corporation and its partner, the United States-owned Russell Mining and Minerals, Inc.,” she said.

She said they also feared that the organized workers are being targeted because they are the most vocal about demanding their rights and also because of their meager number.

Ricaforte said a recent report by the Manila-based Center for Trade Union and Human Rights showed that only 237,000 or 12 percent of the country’s 19.5 million workforce are unionized.

A human rights group called Karapatan in Southern Mindanao said Manrique was the president of the federation of miners in Pantukan town and also a member of the Anakpawis party-list.

It said Manrique was the 44th victim of extrajudicial killings since Aquino took over from President Gloria Arroyo who had recorded at least 173 extrajudicial murders during her time from 2001 to 2010.

“We demand the Aquino administration to abandon its counter-insurgency operation that is plainly similar to the previous Oplans which targets unarmed civilians,” she said.

But it was unknown whether the military or soldiers were involved in the latest killing or not. –Al Jacinto, Manila Times

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