Cycle of exploitation, oppression must end NOW

“It is the lack of genuine economic reforms and Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ (GRP’s) non-adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement of the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which makes political killings against struggling peasants and national minorities rampant in the country,” Karapatan deputy secretary general Jigs Clamor said, in condemnation over the latest killings of Lumad leader Veronico “Nico” Lapsay Delamente and sugar farmer leader Alexander “Sander” Ceballos.

Delamante Ceballos

Delamente, 27 years old, leader of a Mamanwa tribe in Claver, Surigao del Norte, was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding assailants at around 12:20 noon on January 20, in Punta Naga, Brgy. Caagdianao, Claver, Surigao del Norte. He attended a Lumad-Mamanwa meeting called and to be attended by representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP). Delamente was the provincial coordinator of Katribu Partylist since 2010 and was an active member of the Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong mga Organisasyon (KASALO) – Caraga. 

On the same day, Ceballos, 54, a sugar farmer and leader of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Murcia and Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental, was shot in the head at around 8:00 p.m. Ceballos sustained three shots in the head and was declared dead on arrival when rushed to the Sanitarium Hospital in Bacolod City. 

“As the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are crafting a comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms, Delamente and Ceballos became victims of political killings over land disputes,” Clamor said. “So much blood of the peasants and national minorities are spilled in fighting for land. The agreement should uphold genuine agrarian reform, rural development and national industrialization to address the roots of the exploitation and oppression of peasants and national minorities,” Clamor said.

“The GRP, while it talks about socio-economic reforms, should also strictly adhere to the CARHRIHL. If it cannot implement a most basic agreement on human rights and international humanitarian law, what credibility does it have in sincerely addressing the social, economic and political root causes of the armed rebellion,” Clamor said. 

According to Kasalo, a child was also hit during the shooting. Nico and the child were brought to a hospital in Surigao City. Nico died several minutes after, while the child is still in the hospital as of this writing. “Note that near the place of incident is a military detachment of the Task Force Diamond of the Philippine Army located at the road exiting Punta Naga,” Clamor said. 

Nico was known for his leadership in the struggle for the rights of the Mamanwa tribe against large-scale nickel mining companies operating within their ancestral lands.

Last December 2016, the group of Datu Renante Buklas of which Nico was one of the leaders, filed a graft and grave abuse of authority complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against Congressman Prospero Pichay of Surigao del Sur, owner of Claver Mineral Development Corp. (CMDC), for his forcible eviction of the Lumad-Mamanwas from his mining concession.

Also last December 2016, Nico revealed the threats to his life in connection with his refusal to agree to the “plans” for large-scale mining in Claver.

“Like Delamente, Ceballos received death threats prior to his killing. A certain Jigger Costan, body guard of Mayor Dela Cruz threatened to kill him,” Clamor said. “Costan was seen outside the NFSW office last January 13 and 14, 2017 during a council meeting attended by Ceballos,” Clamor said. “The sugar workers were able to take back their land from Mayor Nehemias Dela Cruz, a politician-landlord of Salvador Benedicto who accumulated his landholdings through intimidation and landgrabbing,” Clamor said. 

“Delamente and Cebbalos were well-loved and respected by their fellow sugar workers and Lumad. They taught the people they organized to stand up for their rights to the land they tilled,” Clamor said.  

“Ceballos’ son, Ariel, was shot two years ago in an attempt to kill or silence Alexander,” Clamor said. On July 17, 2015, Ariel was driving their jeepney when two assailants peppered the vehicle with 9mm caliber bullets. Ariel and his companion were fortunately unharmed. 

“The vicious cycle of exploitation-oppression-fascism must end NOW. Justice for Ceballos and Delamente!” Clamor ended.