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Court delays hearing to promote mining

AURORA (Mabuhay) : A trial currently being conducted at the Regional Trial Court in Aurora City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao appears to be more about protecting the interests of mining companies than finding the murderer of two stalwarts of the struggle to protect the environment, a timuay, Barlie Balives, and his son, Gerry Barlie, at 7.20pm on 4 June 2012.

People from Midsalip made the arduous journey to Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur, on June 15 for a hearing in the trial.

The father and son gasped their last breath as the life slipped from their dismembered bodies lying awash in their own blood on the floor of their home in Duilec, a four-hour walking track journey out of Midsalip.

Although three years on from the murder, there was no cross examination of witnesses in the Regional Trial Court, as the prosecution said that it had not had time to make adequate preparation for the hearing.

The last hearing was in January this year and the next one has been scheduled for December.

Father Martin says that the only positive thing to come out of the day was that Ramon Bantayan, who is accused of being the ring leader of the band that committed the double murder and is in the custody of the 55th Infantry Battalion, was ordered to be handed over to the custody of the court.

Bantayan surrendered to the authorities, as it is believed that he had killed a rebel leader and was in fear of his life.

However, he has been seen guiding the military around the area in their hunt for supposed rebels. Long time missionary to The Philippines, Father Sean Martin, says the danger is that he can identify anyone as a rebel and then have them liquidated by the military.

“He can simply get rid of all witnesses to the murder case,” Father Martin explained.

He describes Barlie and his son as martyrs to the land-grabbing mania that has gripped the lush and verdant slopes of Mt. Punikis and the whole Sugarloaf watershed.

“Timuay Barlie was a signatory to the petition to the Supreme Court for a Writ of Kalikasan (nature) that was granted to the people seeking to protect the Sugarloaf area from destructive mining companies and plantation owners,” Father Martin told Mabuhay.

Granted in August 2011, the writ promises the indigenous Subaanen people protection for their sacred lands and their life-giving environment from the mining that would poison the water and the plantation cooperatives, leaving the land stripped of its life-preserving trees.

However, the Columban priest says that he finds it strange that since the area is basically peaceful, the military can quickly and easily identify and locate rebels.

He believes that they are simply part of a tactic orchestrated by the mining companies to create havoc and spread terror, to force people to evacuate their lands for fear of their lives and allow the companies free access to destroy land to which they have no right.

“Mining could then get a quick and easy start,” he regrets.


 

Although three years on from the murder, there was no cross examination of
witnesses in the Regional Trial
Court, as the
prosecution said
that it had not
had time ...