Eliezer “BOY” Billanes
“Karaniwang tao man ako, ninais kong magsilbi sa mamayan lalo na sa mga inaapi. Dahil sa imperyalismo,sa anyo ng dambuhalang pagmimina katulad ng Xstrata-SMI-Indopil at iba pang dambuha- lang kumpanya, pinapatay hindi lang ang ating lupa, ngunit pati ang kultura, buhay at kinabukasan ng ating mga anak. Ang terorismo ng estado, militarisasyon at sistematikong pagbulusok ng ating ekonomiya ang naging rason kung bakit kailangan kong magalit sa kaaway. Ngunit kung kamatayan man ang magiging daan upang ang mas nakararami sa atin ay kumilos laban sa imperyalism, itataya ko ang buhay ko,”
-Eliezer “BOY” Billanes, December 2008
Eliezer “Boy” Billanes took on different roles as a leader and advocate. As an educator, he sought to instill knowledge and critical tools for analysis among the farmers and indigenous communities of his homeland. As a spokesperson and representative of various people’s or gadizations. Billanes took care to clarify the issues affecting the poor and marginalized and their stand on these issues to the media. He bravely urged government agencies to concretely respond to pressing problems. As a facilitator, he would encourage discussions on advocacy strategies and alternatives to unify the community and organization in various aspects. His colleagues from SOCCSKSARGENDS-AGENDA attest that he offered his entire life in serving the people through his active leadership and commitment in the democratic mass movement.
His life was also devoted to the marginalized sectors especially the farmers in Tampakan, South Cotabato. As project director of Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Timog Kotabato (SAATIKU) Boy Bilanes helped improve the lives of small farmers by propagating sustain- able agriculture and establishing the local water system. He found time to regularly visit Tampakan for the implementation of the project despite the distance and his many affiliations.
Staunch anti-mining activist
Eliezer “Boy” Billanes is a peasant, an environmental activist and a community leader in SOCSKARGEN but he is most remembered as the one who waged a decade- long struggle against one of the largest multinational mining firms in the world.
When the 99.400 hectare mining concession was awarded to Western Mining Corporation (WMC) and started operations in the 1990s Billanes ted in struggles to keep the company from exploring the land which reportedly was the second richest copper-gold deposit in Asía, Undaunted by WMC/Swealth and power, Billanes actively exposed the impacts of theproject on the region’s forests, rivers, lakes, ancestral lands, and on the indigenous peoples communities. The historic struggle by the communities of SOCCSKSARGEN eventually left WMC no recourse but to back out and transfer their rights to Xstrata- Sagittarius Mines, Incorporated (Xstrata-SMI).
Billanes had become a vocal critic of the mining liberalization program of the Philippine government, advocating for the repeal of Republic Act 7942 (Mining Act of 1995). He had since courageously led the opposition against large-scale mining, exposed the calamities and ad- verse social impacts associated with President Arroyo’s national priority program. He person- ally lobbied before local government officials and legislators for the approval of the provincial Environment Code, advocating for a specific provision to ban large-scale “open pit” mining in South Cotabato.
His firm grasp of his principles endeared him to the people, but earned the ire of an en- trenched, powerful few. Billanes stood his ground and never wavered in his principles despite repeated attempts to harass, bribe, and intimidate him.
A Fight for the Future Generation
Eliezer “Boy” Billanes was 46 years old when he was killed last March 9, 2009 in Koronadal City, at around 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon at the public market in front of the City Fire Station. He was doing his usual routine of buying a newspaper when Billanes was accosted and shot in the right cheek by two unidentified men atop a scooter-type motorcycle bearing the plate number MJ5432.
He left behind his wife, Emelia, and their three children, the youngest of which was only four years old.
His colleagues and fellow anti mining activists believed that Billanes was killed because of his strong environmental advocacy and effective leadership in opposing the Tampakan copper- gold mining project, a priority project of the Arroyo administration.
Billanes’ murder is seen as part of the series of extra-judicial killings employed by high- ranking agents of the government to suppress opposition. He is the 20th anti-mining activist killed since 2000 under the Arroyo administration. The objective is to horrify activists and environmentalists to intimidate or silence the growing anti-mining mass movement in the country.
He was the chairperson of the SOCCSKSARGENDS Agenda in Mindanao, leading the op- position to Tampakan Copper-Gold project in Southern Mindanao at that time and a member of Defend Patrimony, a national multisectoral alliance opposing the mining liberalization policy and large-scale mining projects of the government.
Up to his death, Mr. Billanes believed that the protection of our environment is everyone’s sacred duty for the next generation and it is this inspiration that he leaves behind to the number of people who joined his anti-mining crusade and and organized themselves under the SOCCSKSARGENDS Agenda. Several organizations that were formed, are the Panalip- dan-Youth, Teatro Alang sa Kinaiyahan (TASK), a cultural group under AGENDA, Save Taplan River Movement (STARM) and its youth counterpart the STARM-youth.
Boy Billanes died defending the environment, advancing the rights of the marginalized sector and struggling for national patrimony. His efforts, advocacy and organizing initiatives were undoubtedly remarkable and is recognized by the people, and ultimately even by the fascist regime. Even after death, Boy’s deeds continue to inspire people and incite the anti-mining plunder sentiment he helped propagate.