House IP chair urges Palace to address murders in MindanaoBy Vincent Cabreza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—The chair of the House committee on national cultural communities is urging President Benigno Aquino to address the spate of killings of indigenous community leaders, many of whom have ties to anti-mining lobbies.
Ifugao Representative Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said the latest incident involved the killing of the family of B’laan leader Dagil Capion by soldiers during a raid on a village on the border between South Cotabato and Davao del Sur last Thursday.
The soldiers were supposedly trying to arrest Capion for his alleged participation in a 2010 ambush on an Army team.
Capion is part of the Bong Mal community, which has been vocal about its objections to the Tampakan copper and gold project in South Cotabato, according to the party-list group Katribu.
Killed during the raid were Capion’s 27-year-old wife, Judy, who was two months pregnant, and his two sons, aged 13 and 8. Wounded was Capion’s 5-year-old daughter.
Beverly Longid, the Baguio-based president of Katribu, said an independent investigation by Church and civic society groups blamed the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion for the violence at Sitio Datal-Alyong in Barangay Danlag in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
According to Katribu, 26 leaders of indigenous communities have been murdered since Aquino took office in 2010.
Baguilat, a Liberal Party member, said he could not accept the murder of civilians “no matter how much the military justifies killing as a counter-insurgency move.”
He said the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies have been assuring his committee that investigations have been launched to determine why IP leaders have been targeted.
“But where are the concrete accomplishments?” he asked. “Can’t they do more than just investigate and produce reports? Where is the task force that we urged these agencies to organize when we conducted a public hearing in Congress about these killings?”
Baguilat said the latest killings have become “the biggest compelling reason why a moratorium on mining should be declared, at least in ancestral lands.”