Police, soldiers hunt B’laan natives blamed for attack on mining companyBy Orlando Dinoy
KIBLAWAN, Davao del Sur, Philippines—Army-backed policemen began a hunt Tuesday for a group of B’laan natives blamed for a series of attacks on Sagittarius Mines Inc. whose operations they claimed were encroaching on and damaging their ancestral domain.
Senior Supt. Ronaldo Llanera, provincial police director, would not say how many men were thrown into the hunt for the tribesmen, led by the brothers Kitara, Dagil and Batas Capion.
But he said the police alone deployed a company of policemen from the provincial public safety office. By military standards, a company has about 133 men.
“We aim to serve the warrants against them and we intend to get them dead or alive,” Llanera said.
The warrants were issued by various Davao del Sur courts against the Capion brothers and their followers on charges of murder in connection with killing of policemen in recent ambushes on the mines facilities, arson and cattle rustling.
Aside from opposing the entry of SMI, the Capion brothers also resent the alleged loss of B’laan lands to non-natives, who have come to settle in the mountains of this municiplaity that lies in the border with the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.
Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of the Diocese of Marbel earlier urged the authorities to address the root of the problem posed by the armed B’laans instead of dismissing them as bandits.
Gutierrez said the problem was being complicated by reports of abuses committed against the B’laans, some allegedly by soldiers.
The Capion brothers maintain that the forests in the boundaries of the four provinces belong to the B’laan people.
The B’laans will defend their territories at all cost, said Rita Dialang, a sister of the Capions.
Dialang said her brothers were standing up to aggression and were making “sacrifices in defense of the tribe’s ancestral land and in defense of our way of life.”
“Forest, to us, is like a vast market. We get everything we need out there. It is our hunting ground, our drugstore, our farmland and our sanctuary. Destroy the forest and you also destroy our lives,” she said.
But Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante said she was not buying the Capion brothers’ line of reasoning and maintained that they were plan bandits.
“What they are doing is plain (banditry),” she told the Inquirer by phone.
Diamante said the manhunt was supported by ordinary residents. She said before it was launched, a series of dialogues and meetings were held in the villages where the alleged bandits were known to operate.
Diamante said there would be no negotiations with the Capion brothers because their ambushes— the last one on August 9 killed a policeman—made her patience run out.
“This time we have to be tough,” Diamante said.