PHILIPPINES: Denial of rights of indigenous people, murders and assaults with impunity

Dear Friends,

We are forwarding you an appeal from WITNESS, a human rights monitaring NGO, based in New York, regarding the attacks on indigenous people in Mindanao, Philippines during recent months.

Please read the following report and take the action suggested by WITNESS. If you need further information, please visit to view “Rule of the Gun in Sugarland”.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission


– Murder of Samuel Bento (September 6, 2001, Bukidnon, Mindanao) 

On September 6, 2001 Samuel Bento, chairman of the Tribal Organization of San Jose (TOSJ), a member organization of NAKAMATA, was returning from the local town when another passenger inside a shared passenger jeepney stabbed him fatally. Samuel Bento had formally organized the TOSJ in 1999, and the organization then made known their desire to recover their ancestral land claim, an area of 1,100 hectares that had been converted into a cattle ranch. This was the land that, according to the claimants, was “borrowed from the tribe” by one Timothy Ocaya (now deceased) way back in the 1960s, and whose son-in-law now serves as manager of the area. 

In October of 1999, Samuel Bento occupied a portion of the land and planted corn. He was arrested, and sent to jail based on the complaint filed by the ranch-owner. He was bailed out for 3,000 pesos. The incident sowed fear among members of TOSJ. Some became inactive members as a result. But the Bentos went on tilling the small parcel of land. 

On August 19, 2001 his younger brother Nonoy went to the area to harvest the corn. It did not take before heavily armed guards of the Ocaya ranch surrounded him and harassed him. They also confiscated the two sacks of corn that he had finished harvesting. This incident only emboldened Samuel. 

The following day he initiated a more active organizing among members of his community. The members decided that they must formally join NAKAMATA. It was right after this that words reached him that a price of 20,000 pesos had been placed on his head. No one would say who put the price. But there is general belief that it was related to the organization’s decision to formally claim back their lands. Samuel was also advised never to go out without a “buddy” with him. 

– Attacks directed at Marcial Tahuyan (September 27, 2001) 

On September 27, 2001, gunmen fired upon the home of NAKAMATA leader, Datu Marcial Tahuyan, injuring two family members. Threats continued to be made on his life and those of others working with him in the days afterwards – leading up to the murderous assaults on Ananias Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dazing – and the police were slow to investigate or provide protection. 

Datu Marcial Tahuyan is the chairperson of the San Luis Bukidnon Native Farmers Association, a member organization of NAKAMATA. The organization’s total land claim is approximately 700 hectares. The same area used to be a part of a huge corporation ran by associates of the late dictator Marcos. Now sequestered, the area is currently planted with sugar cane by local politicians or their proxies. 

Even before joining the NAKAMATA coalition in 1999, Datu Tahuyan had been leading his people to occupy lands that had been taken away from them by the corporation. For that, they were subjected to at least 5 demolitions and evictions by company guards. In November 10, 1993 one of his members was hacked to death by a company guard. 

Because of his leadership in asserting his community’s land claims, the Datu has been subjected to what he believes are attempts to kill him. In one of these incidents, in the early morning of December 31, 1998, three men armed with armalite rifles came looking for him. His members’ refusal to divulge where he was then saved him. 

The most recent attempt on his life was last September 27, 2001. Datu Tahuyan left his house early morning of this day to attend a NAKAMATA meeting and observe the second phase of the video training for the coalition’s research and documentation team. 

At 3:30pm that afternoon, three men, wearing masks and armed with 12-gauge shotguns and a carbine rifle, fired upon the datu’s house from close range. Two people were injured. The police made no serious attempt to investigate the incident, despite acknowledging that they knew threats had been made to kill Datu Tahuyan. 

After the attack members of the organization relayed the information to the police that the assailants were “nearby waiting for another opportunity to stage another assault against us, and that they were armed with M14, Garand, Carbine and shotgun rifles”, and indicated where they believed they were hiding. One officer eventually sent to the scene took still photos. When Datu Tahuyan requested print copies, he was told to order and pay for the photos at the processing studio. No protection was offered to coalition members. For more information see the ‘Attacks directed at Marcial Tahuyan’ story section. (on the website 

– Murders of Ananias Tahuyan and Rodolfo Dazing (October 13, 2001) 

The church, on this day, normally would call for the understanding for the plight of the tribes and seek for the promotion and protection of their rights as distinct peoples. It is a day that indigenous peoples always receive with joy. But here, it is a day of gloom. Two members of the Manobo tribe were slain at 6:20 this morning in what appears to be a continuing wave of assaults against Lumads who continue to assert their ancestral land claims. Killed by still unidentified men armed with shotgun and carbine rifles were Ananias Tahuyan, 50 and Rodolfo Dazing, 42. 

Two other companions, including a 10-year old boy managed to run to safety immediately after the first gunbursts. 

The victims were on their way to their community center when ambushed by the assailants who posted themselves along the trail. 

Tahuyan is a board member of the San Luis Bukidnon Native Farmers Association (SLNBFA). He was on his way to join his group to complete a GPS (global positioning system) survey of their land claims. The survey started yesterday. 

Hit in the arms and thigh, he managed to run back towards the national highway where he died minutes later due to loss of blood. 

Dazing died on the spot with a bullet wound in his forehead. 

Ananias is an elder cousin of Datu Marcial Tahuyan, chairperson of the association whose house was strafed by armed masked men in broad daylight last September 27. The datu was out of the house then. 

– Assault on Manobo village (October 18, 2001) 

On October 18, 2001, unidentified armed men assaulted the community of the two men from the Manobo tribe who were killed in the October 13 ambushes. This time, the suspects fired several rounds of M-79 grenade launchers in broad daylight before they razed 14 homes to the ground. No one was reported hurt, as the Manobo tribe members had already evacuated along the national highway. Mayor Felix Manzano, the local mayor, dismissed the buildings as “shanties”. But now the members of the tribe face a time of extreme poverty and desperation. 

Despite receiving numerous requests, as well as being made aware of credible threats to the lives of NAKAMATA’s members, the police did not take action to protect the lives of NAKAMATA members, nor did they conduct a thorough investigation of this or other incidents. 

In October and November, the harvest season started. Along the highway here, truckloads of sugarcane pass by the Manobos’ settlement on their way to two huge milling complexes in nearby Maramag and Quezon town. Sources say landowners and financers would earn from a low 15,000 pesos per hectare to as high as 50,000 from this crop. 

Harvest time used to be a welcome time for the tribe. It would be a good four months when they could serve as cane cutters to earn petty cash. It is not so now. Cane owners no longer hire ancestral land claimants for cutting. One reason, according to the members of the coalition, is to deprive them of their only source of income. Second is the landowners’ fear that they may be held liable if attacks against tribe members were to happen in their area. Hunger now stalks the indigenous people of Don Carlos municipality, Bukidnon. And they continue to fear for their lives as they pursue their land claims. 


ACT NOW by writing to the authorities in the Philippines and asking that they investigate these attacks thoroughly, and provide effective protection for NAKAMATA leaders and members. 

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER



Re: Attacks on indigenous people in Mindanao 

I write to express my support for the initiation of inquiries by police and the National Bureau of Investigation into the attacks on members of the NAKAMATA coalition. However I remain concerned that without protection and thorough investigation, and the lawful resolution of their claims, NAKAMATA members will be subject to further assault in the future. 

On October 19, 2001, armed men once again attacked the Manobo village, inhabited by members of NAKAMATA. Virtually all (14) houses were razed and shots were fired indiscriminately. This follows the events of October 13th, in which armed masked men ambushed four members of NAKAMATA, brutally killing two. Dead are Ananias Tahuyan, 50 and Rodolfo Dazing, 42, of the San Luis Bukidnon Native Farmers Association (SLNBFA). The men were on their way to complete a geographical survey pertaining to their community’s claim to this ancestral domain. I believe that these crimes are political in nature and are directly related to the communities’ legal and peaceful efforts to prepare and collect data for the filing of ancestral land claims. 

This information, including the possible hideout of the suspects, was relayed to the Chief of Police. Obviously, he did not respond effectively. In light of these facts, I urge you to ensure that the National Bureau of Investigation receives all the support it needs in order to thoroughly investigate and duly prosecute these crimes. 

These attacks follow the tragic murder of NAKAMATA member Samuel Bento on September 6, 2001 and the subsequent shooting attack of September 27, 2001 on the house of another NAKAMATA member, Datu Marcial Tahuyan. 

I am alarmed by the recent escalation of violent murders and attacks in Bukidnon, and even more so by the apparent lack of urgent response by local police, Defense establishment and authorities, despite pleas by high-level officials. These communities deserve your full and undivided political attention. This is especially true since the police officer in charge, Senior Inspector Paquito Catin, Jr., failed not only to properly investigate these crimes, but he also continues to deny NAKAMATA adequate protection from further attacks. 

I urge you to safeguard NAKAMATA from further harm as they continue to exercise their legal rights. Thank you for your serious attention and cooperation on this matter. I will be monitoring this situation closely and look forward to hearing what steps you take to ensure the well-being of the entire NAKAMATA organization. 

Yours sincerely, 

Your Name 
Your Address 
(most government officials require some geographical location/address, etc.) 



President of the Philippines 
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo 
Malacanang Palace, Manila 
Fax: +632 733-2107 
Email: or 

Chairperson National Commission on Indigenous Peoples 
D&E Bldg., Quezon Ave., cor. Roces Ave., Q.C. 
Fax: +632 372-4958 

Department of National Defense, Philippines 
3rd Floor, DND Building 
Angelo Reyes 
Emilio Aguinaldo 
Quezon City, Metro Manila 
1100, Country Code 1099 
Fax: +632 911-6213 

Congressman Juan Miguel Zubiri 
3rd district, Bukidnon 
South Wing 414 Batasan Pambansa 
Constitution Hills, Quezon City 
Tel/Fax: +632 931 6489 
(must call first to alert them of incoming fax) 

Also send appeals to your country’s Philippine ambassador 

– Please also fax/email copies of letters to WITNESS at 212 274 1262 or

Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : FA-1-2002
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Impunity, Indigenous people,