The murder of Jimmy Liguyon illustrated the climate of impunity prevailing in the Philippines.
On March 5, 2012, Liguyon, an anti-mining activist and chairperson of the church council of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Dao, San Fernando, Bukidnon, was shot by Alde Salusad, the leader of the paramilitary organization New Indigenous People’s Army for Reform (NIPAR). NIPAR is part of the civilian militia (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit/CAFGU) and in this function under the command of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine military (Armed Forces of the Philippines/AFP).
Liguyon was Barangay Captain of the village of Dao and chairperson of a local indigenous group which wanted to prevent mining projects planned in the region. In this function he came into conflict with Salusad, the head of the San Fernando Tribal Datus Association (SANMATRIDA), an association of local indigenous leaders who collectively make a claim to 52,000 hectares of land in order to be able to award mining concessions. However, Liquyon’s consent was required to legalize their claim.
Because he refused to give his consent, he had already previously received a series of death threats, including several from Ben Salusad, the father of the suspect and himself a member of the 8th Infantry Battalion of the AFP. Alde Salusad is reported by a witness to have said after the murder: “I killed the captain because he wouldn’t [join] the SANMATRIDA and refused to give certification to SANMATRIDA.”
In addition, NIPAR published a letter claiming responsibility in a local newspaper stating that they had killed Liguyon because he had been a member of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Although Alde Salusad was identified by witnesses and has been sought on an arrest warrant since the end of April 2012, he has not been arrested to date. It was reported that he was still living in Dao, San Fernando, at that time and continued harassing and threatening other mining opponents. It is suspected that the local police knew of his whereabouts but feared reprisals should they carry out the arrest warrant. Calls by international organizations and Philippine NGOs to have Salusad arrested by the national police instead for this reason have thus far gone unheard.
Salusad and NIPAR controlled in the meantime the small-scale mining activities in San Fernando. Seventy-eight families, including the family of the victim, left Dao because they feared for their lives.
Jimmy Liguyon was the third victim of a political murder within the UCCP since June 2010.
To date, the perpetrator remains at large. The AMP is not aware of any further developments in the investigation of the murder case.
In 2012 and 2013, the AMP sent a total of three letters of appeal to the Philippine government to demand an impartial investigation into the murder of Jimmy Liguyon, as well as that the perpetrator, Salusad, be held accountable.
Update: February 2, 2023