Gunmen kill tribal leader in southern Philippines

Jefry Tupas –

3 October 2014

Davao City – Gunmen on Thursday shot and killed a tribal leader who was
known to be an avid campaigner for indigenous peoples’ rights in the
southern Philippines.

Timuay Lencio Arig, leader of the Teduray tribe in Maguindanao province,
was shot and killed by two masked men in the town of South Upi.

Arig was on his way home from a wedding party with his wife and daughter
when the gunmen struck in the village of Romongaub. His wife and
daughter survived the attack.

Authorities said they are investigating but as yet have found no motive
for the killing.

“Nothing has been found yet, except for empty shells of an M16 rifle,”
said a local police officer who asked not to be named because he was not
authorized to speak to the media.

Arig was known to be an effective negotiator when it came to peaceful
resolution of conflicts because of his cordial demeanor, his niece
Marilyn said.

“We are praying for justice, but most importantly, let us pray for him
and his community,” Marilyn said.

Arig was a member of the Council of Elders of the Timuay Justice and
Governance, a group of tribal leaders in the province of Maguindanao.

The group has been fighting for 201,000 hectares of land that indigenous
groups in the area call their ancestral domain. The land straddles 11
towns of the Muslim-dominated province.

Before his death, Arig had been urging tribes in the area to protect
their territory against the intrusion of lowlanders, including the entry
of mining companies.

Piya Macliing Malayao, spokeswoman for the Alliance of Indigenous
Peoples of the Philippines, said mining has become the “biggest bane to
indigenous peoples” in the Philippines.

“We are the government’s sacrificial lamb on the altar of foreign
investors in mining and logging, oil palm plantations, energy projects,
special economic zones, real estate and tourism projects,” she told

She underscored the increasing number of extrajudicial killings of
indigenous peoples in the country, adding that 47 indigenous peoples
have already been assassinated since 2010. At least six of those who
died were children.

“Indigenous peoples continue to be under attack as they resist massive
dislocation and environmental destruction of their ancestral lands,” she

Before he died, Arig was active in urging the government to include
indigenous peoples in the proposed Bangsamoro region that will be
established as part of the peace deal between the government and the
rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“He actively participated in the discussions, especially for the
recognition of our right over our ancestral lands,” said Timuay Alim
Bandara, a fellow tribal leader.

Bandara said everybody is in the dark over the killing of Arig.

“We looked up to him for advocating peace,” said Bandara. “What could be
more shocking than to know that a man of peace becomes a victim of

Bandara, however, said the death of Arig should not weaken the struggle
of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

“We cannot be discouraged or be scared,” he said. “We are grieving over
his death, but all the more that we must stand for our rights as a
tribute to him,” Bandara added.