Let Him Not Have Died in Vain

[The statement of the CEAP on the Death of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME.]

The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), consisting of 1,345 member-schools nationwide, expresses its profound condolences to the PIME Congregation and to Bishop Romulo de la Cruz of the Diocese of Kidapawan on the brutal murder of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, PIME, head of the diocesan committee on Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and staunch advocate of sustainable pro-people development in Mindanao. He opposed large-scale mining activities.

The CEAP calls for justice for Fr. Tentorio and for the people whom he served.

The murder at this point cannot incontrovertibly be laid at the feet of large-scale mining activities in Mindanao. Fr. Tentorio’s anti-mining advocacy however is a possible, if not probable, cause for his murder. Since 2003, he has lived with the threat of death because of his service to the Indigenous Peoples of Cotabato and his advocacy of a safe environment.

Fr. Tentorio understood the disastrous effects mining activities would have on his people despite the consent some were giving these under the influence of the mines. As a man of God, therefore, giving voice to the voiceless, he opposed these, taking no heed of the danger this brought him. Perhaps he should have taken heed. Now he is dead.

We hope he shall not have died in vain. We take the occasion of his death to resurrect in us all the passion he had to protect his people and all the Filipino people from the adverse effects of mining, whether large- or small-scale.

It was in this context that the CBCP lamented in its 1998 “Statement of Concern on the Mining Act of 1995” that the implementation of this law – severely skewed in the interest of foreign mining investors “would certainly destroy both environment and people and will lead to national unrest.”

Their warning unheeded, the CBCP in 2006 called on all religious leaders:

“To support, unify and strengthen the struggle of the local Churches and their constituency against all mining projects, and raise the anti-mining campaign at the national level;
“To support the call of various sectors, especially the Indigenous Peoples, to stop the 24 Priority Mining Projects of the government, and the closure of large-scale mining projects, for example… the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato… among others;
“To support the conduct of studies on the evil effects of mining in dioceses;
“To support all economic activities that are life-enhancing and poverty alleviating.”

Nevertheless the large-scale mining activities persist, even as a more enlightened Minerals Management Act, which would better protect Filipino interests in mining activities, is pending, but not priority legislation in Congress. Lamentably so.

Where the activities of large scale mining continue to inexorably seek to exploit our natural resources, but where the lives, livelihood, and cultures of the Filipino people, but especially of the Indigenous People and the poor are genuinely threatened by these activities, where the consultations with the affected persons are more formal than real, conducted in a medium that is virtually foreign and incomprehensible to the people, where short-term benefits are made to seem more important than long term impacts, where the benefit of the foreigner and the profit of a few are confused with the national interest, where hypocrisy, prevarication and manipulation are part and parcel of democratic processes, people will be driven to violence. Fr. Tentorio was a victim of this violence.

It was certainly not unknown to him, as it was known to his Bishop, Romulo de la Cruz of Kidapawan, that:

The SMI-Tampakan mines would leave an open pit at least five-hundred hectares large and 800 meters deep – with no statement from the company that it would not be larger, and no statement from the company how it would restore the environment after creating such a gaping hole.
That these mines would cause the displacement of 4000 people, including 3000 IPs.
That these mines would deprive the people of their fresh water rights. The mines would catch fresh water into a 500 ha. dam and substantially lessen flow of water to the downstream communities proximate to the mine.
That these mines, built on an earthquake fault, would further put people at risk, since their large catchment of toxic tailings would not be invulnerable to damage, especially in case of earthquake.
That the monetary guarantees for rehabilitation in case of accident or damage are grossly inadequate.
That the Philippine military service is sometimes used more for the protection of mining investments with their foreign owners rather than of vulnerable local communities.

The CEAP condemns the murder of Fr. Tentorio. But it also reiterates the long-term local demand that government de-militarize the affected communities and stop the militarization of Indigenous Peoples. It calls attention to the explosive situation in Mindanao where the interests of mining, both large-scale and small-scale, continue to militate against the interests of local communities and of the environment.

With the CBCP, the CEAP asks that the Tampakan Copper-Gold Project in South Cotabato be stopped.

The CEAP asks that legislation such as HB 3763 or “The Minerals Management Bill,” that better protects the welfare of the Filipino people and the Filipino environment, be passed. It also asks that the Aquino administration re-visit its pro-mining policies, and seek ways of national development that are more sustainable and protective of our peoples and our environment.

The CEAP, also as a result of the last CEAP National Convention, urges that Catholic schools intensify their activities aimed at peace education, incorporating elements of reconciliation with God, human society, and the environment. In this context, it urges all CEAP schools to support awareness of the negative impacts of mining and to advocate legislation that favors the Filipino people and truly protects the Philippine environment.

Let Fr. Pops not have died in vain!

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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