On March 5th, 2012, Jimmy Liguyon, indigenous leader of the lumad Matigsalog tribe and vehement opponent of large-scale gold mining, was shot dead by the paramilitary group New Indigenous People’s Army Reform (NIPAR) . As publicly stated by the murder, Mr. Salusad: “I killed the captain [village chief] because he wouldn’t [join] the SANMATRIDA and refused to give certification to SANMATRIDA” . SANMATRIDA (San Fernando Tribal Datus Association) is a group of indigenous lumads who had applied for a 52,000ha ancestral land certificate and who enticed mining investors to establish large-scale operations within the ancestral land domain. The certificate, however, could not be obtained as Liguyon was opposed to large-scale mining and refused to provide consent to certify SANMATRIDA as the leading representative indigenous organization .
Jimmy Liguyon, in his function as village chieftain and vice chair of Kaugalingong Sistema Igpapasindog Tu Lumadnong Ogpaan (KASILO), the representative organization of his indigenous tribe, of which many are engaged in artisanal mining , defended their land rights and a sustainable use of environmental resources. However, there has been evidence of large networks of illegal gold mining activities, surrounding San Fernando town [3;4], for which reason Liguyon publicly campaigned against illegal and large-scale gold mining operations in the region . Prior to his death, NIPAR, as well as other paramilitary groups, such as TRIOM Force, had pressured Liguyon to sign the documents in support of SANMATRIDA and to give consent to large-scale mining. He had received continuous death threats and harassments, however, he always resisted peacefully against the pressure to allow mining. After his death, NIPAR accused him to be member of the armed and violent New People’s Army (NPA), hence, criminalizing his peaceful protests . Neighbors were intimidated when trying to attend his funeral . After his death, the new village chieftain signed the papers that Liguyon refused to sign, opening the doors to large-scale mining .
The community, having lost one of their vocal leaders, filed a case against the murder at the Regional Trial . Petitions , protests marches and rallies followed, demanding justice for his murder (see also below video). However, intimidation continued; another paramilitary group, the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), continuously harassed the KASILO lumads for gold and cash, for which reason some of them set up a camp at Bukidnon capitol, to seek refuge, as well as to protest against the violence surrounding illegal mining in the area .In September 2012, KASILO filed a complaint to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) against CAFGU , and an arrest order against the murder of Liguyon was pending; however, local communities do not believe that the government forces are able to solve the conflicts in this region .
In June 2012, protesters from the refuge camps rejected proposals to settle the conflict through the indigenous justice system and redoubled their efforts to demad the arrest of main suspect Aldy “Butchoy” Salusad, leader of NIPAR . Liguyon’s son Randy filed a lawsuit against Salusad before the Commission on Human Rights and National Commission on Indigenous People accompanied by pastors from the United Church of Christ, nuns from the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, as well as other groups such as Kalumbay, Balsa Mindanao, and other supporters .
Illegal mining in Bukidnon, Mindanao is a complex and widespread problem that heavily affects indigenous communities and artisanal miners as well as the environment. Other areas in the region are also affected; for example in September, 2014 it was reported that a group discovered illegal chromite large-scale mining operations in Impasug Ong, which is around 100km away from San Fernando town . Due to Mindanao’s conflictive political situation and the rule of armed paramilitary groups, justice to the murder of the indigenous leader and environmental defender will not easily be achieved via the juridical system.
Since Liguyon’s assassination, various other members of KASILO have subsequently also been murdered. On August 9, 2019, uniformed soldiers stopped active KASILO member Alex Lacay and Renard Burgos for a ride on their motorcycles on the way to fetch Lacay’s daughters at the public market. The soldiers then shot and killed Lacay while Burgos managed to escape. One of the culprits, Dodo Pacquiao, was identified but there has still yet to be any conclusion to the investigation . Two days later, active KASILO member Jeffrey Bayot was also shot and killed in Barangay Bongbungan, likely also by motorcycle-riding soldiers from the 88th infantry batallion of the Philippine Army . On August 23. 2019, motorcycle military hitmen also shot and killed KASILO Secretary General and Bayan Muna coordinator Bai Leah Tumbalang, an indigenous Tigwahanon woman leader, after she had been receiving death threats for her involvement in the anti-mining struggle since 2011 . The week before her death, she also received text messages from an unknown number saying that her “death is near” . There have yet to be any arrests or conclusions to investigations for any of these murders or that of Liguyon.(See less)