On Saturday, September 13, 2014, Higaunon Tribal Leader Datu Sandigan (Fausto Orasan), a staunch anti-mining advocate and campaigner against deforestation, was shot and killed in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro City by yet unknown assailants. While the exact motive of the crime has yet to be established, it is believed that it is related to his positions on mining and the environment.
The following Saturday, August 20, members of the Project Management Committee of MPI's Resource-Based Conflict and Peacebuilding Training Program, Phase II, wrote the document below demanding justice for the killing of Datu Sandigan.
"Dying now or dying tomorrow is the same death. What should make a difference is what we are doing when we are still living."
The above is among the most-remembered statements of Datu Sandigan Fausto Orasan, often recalled by fellow tribal leaders of the Higaunon tribe and his response to the warning by his wife.
He was proven both right and wrong when his life was taken away by assassins' bullets in the afternoon of Saturday, 13th of September, 2014 in Barangay Tuburan in the hinterlands of Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines on his way home to Barangay Pigsag-an, a hinterland barangay in the city populated by Higaunons, the indigenous people who originally inhabited the City but now living in the hinterlands.
Datu Sandigan was right; for what he did while alive made a difference to many people both Higaunons and non-Higaunons in Cagayan de Oro City. He was proven wrong when his deathwas far more painful for those who shared his dream of securing the ancestral domains of his Higaunon tribe and his passion for protecting the environment from destructive logging and mining.
Datu Sandigan was the tribal chief of the Higaunons living in their ancestral domain in the upland region of Cagayan de Oro City and the current tribal chieftain of the City. He was an active member of SULOG, a multi-sectoral coalition of civil society organizations, church-based groups and the City Government that worked hard for the Court of Appeals' issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan, an environmental protection order for the remaining forests in the mountains of the City. The Writ called on all government agencies to work together in stopping all forms of illegal logging and mining in the mountains of the City. Datu Sandigan was at the forefront because he lived in the areas where the logging and mining were being done.
"Even though the Higaunons are peace-loving people, our lives are being threatened and so we are ready to assert and defend our rights against all those who want to destroy our lands and desecrate nature," said Datu Diamla Rolando Soong of the Higaunon Tribal Council of Iligan City.
"As an indigenous tribal leader, asserting our rights over what remains of our ancestral domains and protecting nature, our forests and rivers means a waiting death sentence to us but do we have a choice? To be cowered means the death of our tribe and the many people who will be affected by illegal mining," said Datu Mampinuhan Norberto Puasan, the Indigenous Peoples' Mandatory Representative to the local legislature of the Municipality of Opol.
We, the leaders of the indigenous peoples' communities of the Higaunon and Subanen tribes gathered in Iligan City, call on the Government of the Philippines, specifically the Commission on Human Rights(CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate this murder and ensure that justice will be done in the killing of Datu Sandigan Fausto Orasan and the perpetrators be brought to justice.
In this time when the indigenous peoples and the majority of the Filipinos are still facing massive corruption, the collusion of police officers with criminals and the failure of the State to protect those who dedicate their life for the cause of human rights and the environment, we demand that all responsible government agencies will fulfil their duties to prove to us that the State is still working for the rights and welfare of its citizens.
|DATU DIAMLA ROLANDO SOONG|
Higaunon Tribal Council
TIMUAY ELISEO A. MANDIH
TIMUAY JERRY L. TUMBALE
DATU MAMPINUHAN NORBETO PUASAN
DOMING T. TANGGANA
MS. VICTORIA M. CAJANDIG
MS. REGINA SALVADOR-ANTEQUISA
Iligan City, Mindanao, Philippines Officer