“Bobby” Rio Olimpio A. Lingating is the tribal leader and duly elected Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of the Subanen Tribe, an Indigenous Peoples (IPs) group situated in the surroundings of Zamboanga Peninsula, Mindanao. The Subanon were put in charge of their territory shortly after the implementation of the Indigenous Peoples Right Act (IPRA) in 1997. Said “IPRA Act” serves as a base for the distribution of ancestral domain to IPs and obliges the state to “protect the rights of ICCs/IPs to their ancestral domains to ensure their economic, social and cultural well being“. However, even years after acquiring their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) the Subanen Tribe and its leader are still facing harassments.
The fundamental causes of the conflict are mining projects of (international) mining companies in Zamboanga, which oppose the ancestral domain given to the Subanen Tribe. Therefore, the aspiration of building mining terminals in the resource-rich Western Mindanao collides with the Indigenous People’s entitlement to have a full say within the area of their ancestral domain. In addition, the conflict is intensified by the involvement of local state actors who have partly proven themselves as counterparts by issuing licenses to mining companies without the permission of the Indigenous People. Thus, the tribe’s fight for the protection of ancestral domain is in equal measure a competition with economic interests of mining companies and government units.
As the tribal leader and Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) to the Pagadian City Council, Lingating became a symbolic figure of the Indigenous People’s fight for ancestral domain and priority rights regarding natural resources. By filing complaints and cancelations for mining tenements violating the tribe’s rights, Bobby became a target for harassments.
On March 11, 2013, he filed a complaint against a mining company as well as the present Governor of Zamboanga, “Cerilles”, for said illegal issuance of licenses. The complaint resulted in a temporary restraining order against big machines putting an end to illegal mining for now. However, as a consequence shortly after the verdict, Bobby got ousted from the City Council in Pagadian for vague reasons. Aside from being bereft of the IP’s constitutional right to political participation, Bobby also faces threats to his life.
He survived an Ambush Attack merely through luck, experienced several arson attempts on his residence and got falsely accused for “Attempted Murder”. Further imposed fabricated charges did not only result in the containment of Bobby’s activism but also in him eventually leaving his community in Pagadian City.
Bobby Lingating currently faces two trumped-up charges for “Illegal carrying of firearms” and “Illegal Possession of explosives” which were supposed to be tried at the Regional Trial Court in Pagadian City. However, due to above mentioned threats to his life as well as doubts about the impartiality of the Court regarding the influence of local politicians, he was unable to attend the hearings. Therefore, Bobby’s legal assistance is trying to transfer the venue of the trial to Manila.
Despite the threats and charges Bobby is facing, he remains to be an important adviser and mouthpiece for IPs in their fight for their ancestral domain. His expertise, will and persistence to stand for the (human) rights of his tribe are exemplary and substantiate the cooperation between Bobby and IPON.
Bobby is affiliated with Bawgbug, a human rights organization from Davao and official partner of the International Peace Observers Network (IPON). As a member of the “Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates”, Bawgbug espouses to stop the criminalization of human rights defenders (HRD) and offers concerned HRDs legal assistance.