Tribal justice for Canadian mining company

July 30, 2008

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A tribe in the Philippines has served its own tribal justice on Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific.

The Subanen, whose name means ‘people of the river’, live in the forested mountains of Mindanao island. They have invoked their traditional justice authority, the ‘Gukom’, which has found the Canadian mining company TVI Pacific guilty of crimes against the Subanen and their land in the Philippines.

The Gukom has ordered that TVI should leave the area and also pay financial restitution.

The Gukom, which is the traditional justice authority of the Subanen near TVI’s gold mine, found the company guilty of violence against Subanen individuals, violation of their customary laws, abuse of the dignity of Subanen leaders and damage to the environment. The Gukom invited TVI to the hearing but the company refused to attend.

The Subanen called upon their traditional system of justice after the Philippine national system failed to take any action on their behalf, despite the destruction of their sacred mountain and many years of human rights violations, allegedly at the hands of the company’s security forces.

The Gukom’s verdict was given after a thanksgiving ritual for local Subanen leader Timuay Jose ‘Boy’ Anoy, who had received his Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (the legal recognition of his ownership of the land). The Subanen allege that TVI attempted to undermine Timuay Anoy’s leadership by disputing his position after he refused to give consent to mining on his ancestral land.

The Subanen live scattered across the mountains of the Zamboanga peninsula. They live in small agricultural communities and practice shifting cultivation.

Over the last century much of the Subanen’s land has been settled by outsiders; more recently, there has been a further invasion of logging and mining companies. The Subanen's protests have been brutally suppressed by the Philippine army, and many Subanen have been forced to leave their homes.

Subanen justice is based on the maintenance of peace and harmony, and the idea of restoring balance. The Subanen hope that TVI will respond to the verdict and use it as an opportunity to right the wrongs committed against them.