The killing of environmental activist
Eliezer "Boy" Billanes
March 9, 2009 Posted March 31, 2009
Eliezer 'Boy' Billanes was the
spokesperson of the Soccsksargends AGENDA (South Cotabato, Cotabato,
Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City, Davao del Sur -- Alliance
for Genuine Development). He was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding
armed men on March 9, 2009
His death challenges us to turn grief into fervor; to put an end to the use of state repression and extra-judicial killings; and to join all those who believe in the sacredness of the environment and are ready to risk their life in protecting our common life-support systems. Boy is recognized now as an agent of life and even the perpetrators of his killing may realize that they are agents of death.
--- AGENDA Council
|Photos courtesy of SOCCSKSARGENDS - Alliance for Genuine Development, INC.|
Billanes was the latest victim
among the nine hundred plus lists of extra judicial killings under the
1) Chairman - SoCCSKSarGenDS-
Alliance for Genuine Development,
The family and friends of Boy
believe that there are no other reasons for his killing aside from his
firm stand and consistent advocacies on social issues and concerns.
For so many years , Boy had
been vocal critic of the multinational mining company Xstrata-SMI
operating in the mountains of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del
Sur and North Cotabato in Mindanao, Philippines. He had couragelously led
the opposition against large-scale mining, exposing the environmental
calamities and social evils. He exposed the deceitful policies of the
government particularly the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 favoring foreign
mining companies and especially of Xstrata-SMI in their efforts to gain
foothold in the second richest copper-gold deposit of Asia.
Since in the 90s, when the
Western Mining Corporation (WMC) was awarded a 99,400 hectares mining
concession in the quadriboundary, Boy was already active in exposing the
environmental hazards of such project. He was very much concerned on the
effects of mining on our forests, rivers and lakes and ancestral lands,
and on the people who live therein, particularly the lumads who are solely
dependent on lands and natural resources for their livelihood. Despite the
wealth and power of WMC then, Boy Billanes fearlessly and unstintingly
stood with the people in their struggle to defend their lands and their
patrimony. WMC had no other recourse but to back out and to transfer their
rights to another company which continues the project with a different
When Xstrata-SMI came in,
following a reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision to ban the Mining Act
and in consonance with Arroyo’s mining policy, Boy Billanes was there to
expose and oppose the schemes of the mining giant. Boy disclosed to his
closest friends that in 2004, a certain Raymond Guevarra who identified
himself as an agent of the National Security Council (NSC) approached Boy
and tried to harass him into signing an agreement to ‘keep quiet’ with his
radio broadcast and interviews, but Boy declined.
Early this year, an
intelligence agent (who did not identify himself) approached him with a
cash gift of 300,000 pesos but Boy dismissed the guy with a resounding NO!
kadugay na nakon diri, ngaa nga ibaligya man nakon ang akong kawsa?”(No!
I’ve been here for so long. Why would I sell my principles?”).
In fact, Boy personally
lobbied to some Local Government Units & legislators in the province of
South Cotabato for the approval of the Provincial Environment Code, with a
specific provision to ban large –scale “open pit” mining in South
Cotabato. He shared his dismay for the delay of such approval but also
hopeful that the provincial government would courageously stand and move
for such legislation.
Two weeks before he was
killed, he got threats and expressed his fears to close friends about the
information that soldiers in their barangay who are conducting RSOT
singled out his name as one among those in the “hotlists”. He wasn’t at
all fazed and firmly stood his ground.
On that day before he was
killed, he held a three-hour dialogue with the 27th IB who were conducting
an RSOT in their barangay along with three Barangay Kagawads – in an
effort to clarify his side and even befriend the government troops who
were conducting a military operation in the outlying barrios of Koronadal
City. His expectation was to be cleared with the military by facing them
openly and legally, however in the afternoon he was killed.
“I readied my life to serve
the people, although I live simply like all of you, but because of
imperialist plunder, we are drown into a cycle of death, war and chaos.
Like the giant Xstrata-SMI-Indophil, which kills not only the future of
our children, but even the culture of our people and the soil of our
forefathers. Together with terrorism of the state, development aggression
and the worsening economic crisis which affected all of us, these are the
reasons why I oppose the enemies of the people..”
Was Boy Billanes killing
related to the Peace and Security Program in KITACO area with the specific
purpose to curtail any opposition to the mining venture?
Sometime in 2008, the
Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Peace and Security Program between the
10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and Task Force KITACO was
formulated. ( KITACO stands for the local government units of Kiblawan,
Tampakan, Columbio which are covered by the mining operations of the
Xstrata- Sagittarius Mines Incorporated). The MOA contains the basic
agreements between the Task Force KITACO as First Party and the 10th ID,
Philippine Army as the second Party. The agreement was about the
maintenance of security services and protection of the mining
installations and properties of the mining company in KITACO area against
unlawful acts of terrorists and other threat groups. Through this
agreement Special Citizen Active Auxiliary (SCAA) are being recruited and
trained by the Army but funded by the company.
During the turnover ceremonies
of Maj. Gen Pojas of the 10th ID to Maj. Reynaldo Mapago as a new
Commanding Officer, it was explicitly bragged by Mapago to “finish off”
the insurgency in his area of responsibility in ten months time, including
the democratic mass movement.
During the March 04, 2009
dialogue in Tampakan between the military and the Church people, the
affected communities raised the issues and concerns about military threats
during their operations in the area, targeting the anti-mining advocates.
According to the military, those who are against mining are “communists”
or NPA supporters, which means anybody who are expressing their opposition
to mining operations in the area are considered rebels and can be target
of military suspicion and even killing. These statements are clear
indications that the 10th ID follows Palparan’s strategy which marked him
as “berdugo” when many activists were killed in the region where he was
assigned. Reliable reports reached us that Palparan is now one of the
security consultants of Xstrata-SMI.
It is believed that the
killing of Boy is a chilling warning to all those who are involved in the
opposition to mining. We believed that the killing is part of the
extra-judicial killing promoted by high-ranking agents of the government.
Their objective is to horrify the mass activists and environmentalists so
as to incapacitate or silence the growing anti-mining mass movement of the
Why Boy Billanes so committed
to denounce and oppose the large-scale mining operation of Xstrata-SMI?
Because Boy Billanes, along
with many experts firmly believe that giant multinational mining company
will destroy the livelihood of millions of people in about 19
municipalities of the region. He share the stand of CBCP statement of Jan.
29, 2006 signed by Archbishop Lagdameo which quotes the bible:
Through his death, what is
Boy’s message for all of us?
JUSTICE AND PEACE DESK
News alert: another
anti-mining activist leader in mindanao killed
Kalikasan People's Network for
the Environment and Defend Patrimony Alliance strongly condemns the
killing of Eliezer "Boy" Billanes, an anti-mining activist. He was shot
around 4:30PM today March 9, 2009. Mr. Billanes is well-known
environmental activist and is the chairman of Socssargends Alliance for
Genuine Developmet (Socssargends AGENDA). It is a regional alliance in Far
South Mindanao Region which leads the opposition to Tampakan Copperr-Gold
project in South Cotabato. Xstrata, one the the biggest mining company in
the world, owns and operates the said project.
March 17, 2009
NEWS REPORTS ON THE KILLING OF BOY BILLANES
■ Mindanews : Slain anti-mining activist
given hero's burial
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Slain anti-mining activist
given hero's burial PDF Print E-mail
KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23
March) – Emilia broke down during the requiem mass and wept hard as the
body of her husband, slain anti-mining activist Eliezer S. Billanes, was
about to be lowered into his final resting place in Barangay San Jose here
Soccsksargends Agenda, which stands for South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan
Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City, Davao del Sur -- Alliance for
Genuine Development, has been strongly opposing the presence of the mining
firm in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
official said the local military leadership “does not consider anti-mining
advocates as supporters of the communist movement.”