By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN
BUNAWAN, Agusan del Sur—Manobo lumad groups and mine workers here vowed to protect the embattled top executive of a gold mining company “at all cost” against the persistent moves of its Australian counterpart to remove him from his office.
Some 1,000 Manobo leaders and members gathered Monday morning at the Manobo Heritage Center in this town to express their full support to lawyer Raul Villanueva, president of Philsaga Mining Corp. (PMC), who has been embroiled by moves by PMC’s Australian partner X64 Limited to oust him.
“I will bet my own life to support Atty. Raul Villanueva all the way,” declared Rolito “Hawodon Tagdoan” Peñaloga, chairman of Bunawan Manobo Ancestral Domain Management Council , Inc. (BMADMCI) who also sits as Municipal Tribal Choeftain of Bunawan.
Later in the day, the Philsaga Employees Labor Union (PSELU)in a gathering at the company’s mine site in Sitio Upper Co-o in the village of Consuelo expressed their all out support to Villanueva after learning that the other lumad group pushing to oust Villanueva only wanted to get the biggest royalty share.
Jaime Pizzaro, PSELU president, said he really do not want chaos in the company but when he overheard from a leader in a picket last week by another Manobo lumad group picketting at the gate of administration building that they demand a P266 million royalty share, he decided to call on his group to go all the way for Villanueva.
“I will give my all-out support to Villanueva without ifs and butts,” Pizarro said.
f X64, communicated the anti-Villanueva lumad group that he had already ordered PMC managers to follow his orders not Villanueva.
X64 is the Australian partner of PMC since 2013 with 40 preent share and 60 percent for its Filipino partner.
The partnership had gone awry in February this year when X64 failed to remit about $4.8 million to PMC for the sales of gold and silver to Hongkong.
Joseph Mahusay, who was installed by McGlinn to replace Villanueva as president, filed a writ of injunction against Villanueva for continuing to act as PMC president and member of the board of directors even if he already sold to Mahusay his shares of stocks with Philsaga Management and Holdings amounting to 125,000 common shares.
But Villanueva denied he sold his share of stocks to Mahusay saying the documents were fabricated when submitted to the court in Davao City.
He said several lapses were found in the document including the forged signature, enough ground to file a case against him.
The TRO stemmed from an earlier action of X64 lawyer Peter John U. Javier against Villanueva for allegedly violating Sections 12.1 and 14.1 of his employment contract with Medusa Mining Limited, now known as X64.
Javier said Villanueva had been given a notice that his contract was terminated effective February 15.
On the same day the TRO was served, an indigenous peoples group picketed outside the gate of the same building calling for Villanueva’s ouster.
Sorilla said the two events happening in the same place at the same time were “too much of a coincidence.”