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Human rigths and environmental defenders killed in 2017, Compostela Valley, Philippines

Ramon Dagaas Pesadilla and Leonila Tapdasan Pesadilla were murdered in March 2017. They had donated land to a Lumad (indigenous) school. Active members of Compostela Valley Farmers' Association, opposing mining projects.


 In Mindanao, martial law under President Duterte has made it easier for the military to harass farmers. Farmers’ killings are linked to their struggles for land rights and against big mining corporations, especially in resource-rich ancestral lands of the Lumad in Mindanao. Data from Karapatan shows that several farmers were killed in many regions of the Philippnes, including Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Negros, Panay, Caraga, Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Some of these killings have been blamed on the military, who allegedly kill civilians while conducting counter-insurgency operations against the New People’s Army [4].[7].  Compostela Valley in Mindanao is a region with many killings. This is the context of Ramon and Leonila Pesadilla's murder on March 2, 2017, in their own house at  Gawad Kalinga village, Barangay Osmeña in Compostela town, Compostela Valley Province. The Save Our Schools Network in Mindanao said one possible motive of the killing  of the couple was their decision to donate a parcel of their land for the establishment of the Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Spur Dos, Barangay Osmeña. The Lumad school was founded in 2015. It now caters for 39 students from Grades 7 to 10. The school is one of the Salugpungan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Incorporated (STTICLCI) in Mindanao. In 2015, the STTICLCI faced threats after the military tagged them as a school owned by the New People’s Army. For her part, Jona Rose Baugto, vice chair of Compostela Farmers Association, attributed the death of the Pesadilla couple to their anti-mining stance. Baugto said the couple was active in campaigning against the entry of big mining companies in Compostela Valley Province. “They campaigned against the entry of Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corporation,” Baugto said. She also accused the military as the one who perpetrated the killing. “They (military) are the ones who killed them,” she said, adding that the advocacies of the farmer-couple were the reasons why they were killed. The military denied the allegations.[1]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Human rigths and environmental defenders killed in 2017, Compostela Valley, Philippines
State or province:Compostela Valley Province, Mindanao
Location of conflict:Gawad Kalinga village, Barangay Osmeña, Compostela
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Copper
Iron ore
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

There is a mining concession to Angusan Petroleum and Minerals Corp covering at least 2,400 ha in the region. The killing of the Pesadilla couple was witnessed by the couple’s 5-year-old grandchild. “Leonila sustained five gunshot wounds: one in the head, shoulder, breast, neck and at the her heart while Ramon sustained six gunshot wounds: one on his face, two on his neck, two on his chest and on his shoulder,” according to a report from human rights group Karapatan – Southern Mindanao Region.[2] The Pesadilla couple was a member of Compostela Farmers Association and known in their local community as a Lumad advocate. The couple, in fact, donated land for the Lumad school Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) at Spur Dos, Barangay Nganl. Both of them were also engaged in opposing the entry of Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation, a large-scale mining company in Compostella Valley province. According to the local peasant group CFA, Leonila Pesadilla led the opposition of the entry of mining in Sitio Spur Dos, Barangay Ngan in Compostela town. Barangan Ngan is one of the areas in Compostela Valley province covered by the Agusan Petroleum and Mineral Corporation’s exploration permits by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and National Resources. The mine’s permit also covers the villages of Nursery, Bango, Pulang Lupa, Mambusao and Kantigbaw, all located in Barangay Ngan including the 2, 400 hectares that span the boundary of Compostela New Bataan which is another exploration permit issued by the environment agency’s MGB.[2]

Project area:2,400
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2013
Company names or state enterprises:Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corp (AGPET) from Philippines
Relevant government actors:MGB, environment agency
DNER, Departament of Environment and Natural Resources
Army of the Philippines
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Compostela Farmers' Association
Karapatan, Southern Mindanao Region
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas KMP (Peasant Movement of the Philippines)
Coalition for Land, Against Martial Law and Oppression (Clamor)
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Violent targeting of activists
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:One more killing of environmental and human rights defenders in Mindanao, Philippines. Many other killings have taken place in Compostela Valley before and during President Duterte's mandate.
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[5] House of Representatives Resolution n. 893, 15 March 2017, description of the facts and circumstances
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] Davao today. Lone witness: Grandchild of slain farmers in Compostela recounts killing. Mar. 13, 2017 EARL O. CONDEZA
[click to view]

[2] Davao Today. House HR committee to probe slain Lumad advocate couple in Compostela. Mar. 20, 2017 MART D. SAMBALUD
[click to view]

[6]Black Friday protest: Anakpawis solon backs farmers’ call to end killings, condemns EJKs under Duterte
[click to view]

With 91 peasants slain in 14 months, monthly kill rate under Duterte higher than 2 predecessors. InterAksyon. | October 21, 2017.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

10 MARCH 2017. Philippines: Spate of killings of human rights defenders. A description of this and other cases of killings (mainly because of disputes on land rights) in the Philippines, 2017.
[click to view]

[3] Green Action PH. Couple-farmer killed in Compostela were protesting San Miguel Corp. AgPet mining
[click to view]

[4]The Philipine Star. Killings of farmers on the rise under Duterte

By Ilang-Ilang Quijano. July 21, 2017
[click to view]

[7]116 groups from 25 countries demand end to attacks on environmental defenders in ‘Asia’s deadliest country’. By InterAksyon. December 7, 2017
[click to view]

Other documents

[click to view]

Leonila Pesadilla, who was killed with her husband Ramon inside their home in Compostela Valley, is among the slain farmers given tribute by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines). Ilang-Ilang Quijano
[click to view]

A Karapatan poster of peasant couple Ramon and Leonila Pesadilla, members of the Compostela Valley Farmers Association, who were murdered March 2 by gunmen who barged into their home in Barangay Osmena, Compostela town, Compostela Valley. The two were active in opposinng the encroachment of large-scale mining. Before they were killed, they had donated a parcel of land for the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, a school for lumad children.
[click to view]

Other comments: Environmental and other NGOs from 25 countries are demanding the Duterte government to act immediately to stop killings and other abuses of environmental defenders in the country. “It is not a crime to defend the environment,” declared the statement, signed by 116 organizations, released Thursday, December 7. The statement pointed out that “in just more than a year under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, at least 42 environmental defenders have been killed, 240 have been slapped with harassment lawsuits, and at least 18,263 have been forcibly displaced because of their resistance to destructive projects.” The groups noted that this record bolstered the 2017 Global Witness Report on Killings of Environmental and Land Defenders’ ranking the Philippines Asia’s deadliest and third deadliest in the world for environmental defenders. The statement’s release followed the alleged massacre by government troops of eight lumad in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato on December 3. The human rights group Karapatan named the fatalities as Datu Victor Danyan, his sons Victor Jr. and Artemio, Pato Celardo, Samuel Angkoy, To Diamante, Bobot Lagase, and Mateng Bantal. Two others — Luben and Teteng Laod — were wounded. The military claims the fatalities were killed fighting with the New People’s Army in a clash that also left two soldiers dead.
However, environmentalists who knew the slain Datu said he was not a rebel but led his tribe campaign against a commercial coffee plantation and plans to mine for coal within their ancestral land. Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, one of the statement’s initiators, said: “President Duterte is by far the worst human rights violator to Filipino environmental defenders. Duterte is well on his way to making the Philippines the most dangerous country for environmental defenders by 2018.” The statement also cited the November 26 evacuation of 1,688 lumad from the hinterland of Lianga, Surigao del Sur who are now the target of a food blockade allegedly imposed by government troops and “various other incidents of extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, enforced disappearances, and forced evacuations … just over the past week in the provinces of Mindoro Oriental, Batangas, Agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, and Surigao del Sur,” all in communities affected by mining and huge plantations.
It also noted “the recent systematic efforts of justifying killings and militarization by accusing environmental defenders as armed communist rebels or sympathizers.”
The statement said many of the atrocities stemmed from opposition to mining — 55 percent of killings and 100 percent of “harassment lawsuits.” It said there are 225 “trumped up” charges against environmental defenders, with 16 “illegally detained.” [7]
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Last update12/12/2017
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