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March 3, 2009
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We condemn the unabated military harassment and intimidation to the members and officers of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), the latest of which is an attempt to forcibly enter the CPA office in Bulalacao, Mankayan, Benguet, where CPA's local chapters MAQUITACDG and APIT TAKO hold office.

Today, March 3, three military men in full battle gear led by a certain Avila, with two others who can only be identified as Agustin and Layugan, proceeded to the office and coerced a local resident, who is also a member of the local chapters, to open the doors so they could get in, but the resident refused. This attempt happened when many of the Apit Tako and MAQUITACDG staff, together with leaders of the Lepanto Employees Union-NAFLU-KMU were in Manila on a picket at the Lepanto National Office on the unjust wages and work rotation schemes of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co.

Reports from our local chapters also state that the military has started to conduct census surveys in Bulalacao, and are asking what soft projects the barangay needs, For one, it is the PopCom that is mandated to conduct household surveys. Similarly in Baay Licuan, Abra, elements of the 41st Infantry Battalion conduct households surveys an camped under residents' homes, until they eventually extended their stay. sowing fear among local residents.

MAQUITACDG and APIT TAKO have long defended indigenous peasants' rights in Mankayan, nearby Tadian in Mt. Province and downstream Ilocos Sur against the pollution of major river systems and destruction of main agricultural lands from the large mining operations of Lepanto.

Militarization of indigenous communities where there is opposition to destructive projects like large mining only intends to secure and protect the State's economic interests at the expense of indigenous peoples' right to ancestral domain and self determination. In fact, UK-based mining company Bezant and local partner Crescent Mining has started its drilling operations in Bulalacao and Guinaoang barangays. Of government's 23 priority mining projects, five are located in the Cordillera region.

Human rights violations will definitely ensue if Bulalacao and the other barangays in Mankayan will be militarized, as such violations are not new to Mankayan. We recall in 2004 the extrajudicial killing of deaf mute Efren Agsayang, the mass arrests and physical injuries to LEU officers and members and women in 2005. We recall the havoc in Pananuman, Tubo, Abra in April 2008 with the dense military operations of the 41st IB-bombings, harassment and intimidation and the killing of senior citizen Mariano Galisen, and we do not want these to replicate in Mankayan.

While we denounce any attempt to further militarize and plunder Mankayan especially with Lepanto's expansion, we also strongly condemn the continuing harassment of CPA officers and members in Baguio City, especially at this time that we are still searching for CPA founding member James Moy Balao.

We continue to appeal to the public and the media---to peace and freedom loving individuals--- to denounce these unjust acts against the CPA, its officers and members. #



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