By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
BAGUIO CITY — Invoking their since-time-immemorial rights over their ancestral lands, residents of Madaymen, Tabio, Mankayan, Benguet defied a new court order which ordered them to lift their barricade at the drilling site of the Far Southeast project (FSE).
The residents told the court sheriff, who was assisted by 30 fully armed policemen with long firearms, truncheons and shields, they are not going to lift the four months long barricade.
In a phone interview, their elders asserted that the barricade that they continue to man since January up to the present is an expression of their rights to self-determination, to their ancestral land, and to a balanced ecology against corporate interests, that is fast turning their lands agriculturally unproductive and destroying their environment.
At around 6 AM Friday (May 25), the barricaders claimed that Sheriff Jess Anthony Caramto of the Branch 64 of Abatan (Buguias, Benguet) Regional Trial Court arrived in Madaymen with his police escorts.
He was armed with the order enforcing a 20 day Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) issued by Judge Agapito Laoagan on May 23 based on the petition filed by an official of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMC).
As tension grows between the enforcer of the order and the barricaders, Sheriff Caramto and Mankayan Chief of Police William Willie talked to the barricaders and explained the order, and that they are there to serve it to the named defendants on the complaint.
Marlou Pablou, president of the Save the Mankayan Movement, said that they also explained their basis to continue manning the four month old barricade.
After negotiations, defendants were served notice which made the enforcers of the court order leave the area at past 10 AM.
Case filed at RTC
Court records showed that LCMCo Vice President and Resident Manager Magellan Bagayao at RTC Branch 64 of Abatan, Buguias, Benguet filed on May 15 a complaint for damages and injunction and TRO against the leaders of the residents who are barricading the drilling site of the FSE project in Madaymen.
On May 23, the defendants were served summons for the hearing on that day where Judge Laoagan granted the TRO to stop the barricade at the drilling site.
The hearing for the injunction, which seeks for the permanent stoppage of the barricade, was set to be heard on June 11.
Judge Laoagan’s order sated: “Finding that the plaintiff (LCMC) will suffer grave and irreparable injuries, before the matter of preliminary injunction will be heard on notice and pursuant to applicable Rules of Civil Procedure, the defendants and all persons acting in their behalf are ordered to stop and desist from: blocking the roads going to the properties of Lepanto located at sitio Madaymen; to stop and desist from performing acts that would unjustly restrain and/or deprive Lepanto and its employees from exercising their right to fence or enclose the subject properties; and also to stop and desist from converging, camping, picketing and installing any and all forms of barricade (human and otherwise) in roads leading to the properties that tend to block, close or constrict the ingress and egress depriving Lepanto of their right to exercise its ownership and perform its lawful business therein within 20 days from the receipt of the TRO.”
Following this development, FSE released a statement saying that they will continue to observe and abide by the rule of law.
“We do not want anyone physically hurt from these procedures. We are hoping that the picketeers would also heed the orders and decisions of the courts,” said Marione Marie G. Molintas-Ruiz, FSE media relations officer.
According to Ruiz, the FSE project where partners Lepanto (60%) and Gold Fields (40%) is the company conducting the geo technical drilling at sitio Madaymen in Mankayan where a picket has been ongoing for several months now.
Meanwhile the leaders of the barricaders in Madaymen said that even with the TRO from the court, they said that they will continue the barricade until the companies remove their drilling machines and leave the area.
They asserted that the area covered by the drillings is a part of their ancestral domain and they insisted that they had certification and cadastral surveys showing that LCMCo has no properties in the area. # nordis.net