Shooting mars Lent in N. Vizcaya village
BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Violence marred the observance of Lent in remote Didipio village in Kasibu town after the shooting of a resident allegedly by a security guard of a foreign mining company as it tried to resume demolition activities in the area on Black Saturday.
Supt. Domingo Lucas, acting provincial police director, said Emilio Pumihic was shot and wounded at around 11 a.m. allegedly by Whitney Dongiahon, a security guard for the proposed mining area of Australian firm OceanaGold Philippines Inc.
Lucas said the shooting happened after residents had an altercation with members of OceanaGold’s demolition team and their armed escorts as the latter tried to enter the villagers’ property on Saturday.
Witnesses Leomedes Tadeo, Nena Nahpadan and Virginia Kindipan said Pumihic and a group of Didipio men rushed to help Samuel Bidang, a resident, who was sleeping in his house, just as it was about to be demolished by the OceanaGold crew.
Pumihic, who was armed with a farm knife, was restrained by two of OceanaGold’s security escorts.
Dongiahon, they said, shot Pumihic from behind using a handgun.
Pumihic was hit in his right arm and was taken to the Quirino Provincial Hospital in Cabarroguis, Quirino, about 50 km from the site. His relatives took him to Lagawe, Ifugao, on Sunday.
Ramoncito Gozar, OceanaGold’s vice president for communications and external affairs, confirmed the shooting, but gave a different version of the incident.
Quoting reports from security officials, Gozar said the shooting occurred only after Pumihic, whom he described as an illegal small scale miner, “overreacted” to the activities of the demolition team members who “were peacefully doing their [job].”
“He was drunk and was apparently annoyed by the dismantling. He began to attack a policeman with a knife so the security guard intervened and they wrestled, and then, the gun fired, hitting Pumihic,” Gozar said.
Police officials, however, found Gozar’s version “incredible.”
On Good Friday, OceanaGold brought in the wrecking crew supposedly to resume demolition of about 200 more houses in Didipio located within its proposed 425-hectare primary mining impact area.
The company has been demolishing houses and clearing lands in Didipio since December to prepare the project area in time for its targeted start of production by February 2009.
If the company failed to meet this target, the project will be put off, OceanaGold officials said.
Dismantling activities, however, have been met by numerous delays mainly due to the resistance of residents who have refused to accept offers by the company for them to vacate their lands in exchange for cash.
The villagers have since resorted to fencing off their lots, forming human barricades and filing an injunction suit before the Regional Trial Court here.
Early this month, the firm’s demolition activities were stopped by a 20-day temporary restraining order issued Feb. 28 by RTC judge Vincent Eden Panay.
Friday’s deployment came on the heels of a March 17 court ruling which lifted the TRO against OceanaGold’s demolition activities, covering the houses of 13 complainants.