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4 Jan 2021

Editors, Asean Today

Philippines: Killings of unarmed Indigenous leaders linked to dam opposition

'Philippine authorities kill nine indigenous leaders in raid on “communists”', 04 January 2021

Philippine authorities shot and killed nine indigenous Tumandok leaders on the island of Panay who were flagged as communist insurgents after they allegedly resisted arrest. But indigenous rights advocates say the victims were targeted for their resistance to militarization and damaging government-backed infrastructure projects... Those killed were leaders of their Tumandok indigenous communities and included Roy Giganto, Reynaldo Katipunan, Barangay Lahug, Galson Catamin, Eliseo Gayas Jr., Maurito Diaz, Artilito Katipunan, Mario Aguirre, Jomar Vidal and Rolando Dia. Jobelyn Giganto, chief of Lahug village, refuted the police account and said that her brother-in-law Roy Giganto did not fight back... Advocates say the victims were targeted for working to oppose militarization in their communities as well as the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam project on Panay’s Jalaur river... Philippine authorities have often been criticized for labeling those who oppose government initiatives as communists and for reportedly planting firearms at crime scenes... The Jalaur Mega Dam has been in the pre-planning stages for decades and would support irrigation for agriculture, more than doubling the rice production of Iloilo province, according to proponents. The dam is backed by South Korea’s state-run Export-Import Bank; it would reportedly be 109 meters tall and involve an 80-kilometer canal...