By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – A local leader of an indigenous people group opposed to a palm oil plantation was shot dead by suspected state agents in San Nicolas, Puntod, Cagayan de Oro City, October 3.
At around 3 p.m. yesterday, Gilbert Paborada, 47, chairman of Pangalasag (Indigenous Shield), was about to alight from a motorela (public tricycle) when he was shot at by two motorcycle-riding men, according to the initial data gathered by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP)-Northern Mindanao Region (NMR).
Witnesses said one of the men moved closer to Paborada and fired at him again in the head. Paborada sustained five gunshot wounds: two on his chest, one in the abdominal area and another on his hand. He was dead on the spot.
The gunmen on board a white motocross-type motorcycle quickly sped away.
“We believe that Paborada was killed because of his stance against A. Brown Company’s palm oil plantation,” Jomorito Goaynon, chairman of Kalumbay, a regional organization of indigenous peoples in Northern Mindanao, told Bulatlat.com in a phone interview.
Paborada’s organization Pangalasag has been resisting the expansion of the palm oil plantation of A. Brown Company in the villages of Bagocboc and Tingalan in Opol, Misamis Oriental.
Pangalasag said the company did not secure their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) before encroaching on their ancestral domain. In a fact-finding mission in May, the group said, A. Brown grabbed their lands, destroyed their crops and forced them to leave.
“We view this as an attack against the indigenous people’s right to land and to self-determination,” Goaynon said, adding that Paborada defended the rights of his fellow Higaonon tribe.
Goaynon said A. Brown’s representative Raffy Magbanua once warned Paborada against opposing the palm oil plantation. “Magbanua told him to stop or he would regret what might happen to his life,” Goaynon said in Filipino.
The Kalumbay leader also said Opol Mayor Dexter Yasay, in a dialogue with Pangalasag on June 4, publicly accused Paborada of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The local government is vocal in its support to A. Brown.
In an interview by Bulatlat.com in May this year, Paborada related how A. Brown’s security guards pointed their guns at him, telling him to leave the land.
Since March 2011, Paborada left Bagocboc and had relocated to Punto, Cagayan de Oro City to evade threats to his life. He earned a living by opening a small store. He still frequented Bagocboc village to lead community-based campaigns of Pangalasag. On the day of the killing, Paborada just came from Bagocboc.
He is survived by his wife and their seven-year old child.
Kalumbay said Paborada is the fourth member of an indigenous people’s group who had been killed in Northern Mindanao since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office.