Tribal war feared over killings of Blaan membersBy Allan Nawal, Aquiles Zonio
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – The sister of a tribal leader whose wife and two children were killed in a military operation last Thursday, said a “pangayaw” (tribal war) could erupt due to the killings.
Rita Dialang, younger sister of Dagil, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that the two-month pregnant Juvy, her children — Pop, 13 and John, 8 – were mercilessly killed, and because of that, “pangayaw is very possible.” “It was not only our family, which was hurt deeply. Our people are in pain too. They were asking what sin Juvy and her children had committed to deserve such deaths,” Dialang, also the family’s spokesperson, said in Visayan.
She said for the B’laans, the killings were quite depressing but these had not weakened their resolve to fight for their rights and their way of life against aggression.
The Capion family maintains that Dagil has been waging a tribal-sanctioned war against the intrusion of Sagittarius Mines Inc., which allegedly has displaced many B’laans in the boundaries of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
Dialang, who lives in a community adjacent to Sitio Alyong in Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, the place of the killings last Thursday, said they were awakened by the sound of automatic gunfire early morning Thursday.
“We heard the gunshots from the direction of Dagil’s house so we rushed outside. We saw human figures in dark clothes outside Dagil’s house so we hurriedly went to the area,” Dialang said.
She said although Dagil’s house was visible from her own home, the uphill climb towards it made the trek last for nearly an hour.
“The soldiers were still there when we arrived. Dagil’s neighbors are also already in the area,” Dialang said.
Based on what neighbors had told her and members of the Capion clan, Dialang said Dagil was not in the house when the soldiers opened fire at it.
“So he was not injured, contrary to the claims of the military,” she said.
Dialang said that by all accounts, the killing of Dagil’s family did not happen in an encounter as the military has been claiming.
“It was a massacre. They were unarmed and sleeping. Dagil was not around and nobody from our family’s side could have started the firefight,” she said.
Dialang said the soldiers could be standing close to Juvy and her children because – except for Vicky, 7, who survived with an injury on the lower part of the body – Juvy and her two sons suffered gunshot wounds in the head.
Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo, commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion, the Army unit seen as responsible for the killings, said the victims were killed in the crossfire when soldiers responded as they were being fired upon by Dagil and his men.
“We did not know there were unarmed civilians inside,” he said, adding that the military launched an operation against Dagil, who has been sought for murder and other crimes.
Bravo said the soldiers involved in the killings had been relieved, were called back to headquarters and also placed under investigation “for possible operational lapses.”
Dialang said Dagil, along with her brothers Kitari and Batas, were being persecuted for defending the B’laans.
“They were not engaged in banditry as authorities had been claiming,” she said.
Dialang said Dagil and her two other brothers had decided to stand up against abuses, including the murder in 2002 of another relative by men believed to be government agents.
“Before, we just agree to what influential people would ask us to do. But now, we are fighting,” she said.
But why have the Capion brothers been leading the fight?
Dialang said the Capion family has been leading the B’laans in many issues for many years now.
She said members of the tribe would often seek the help of any member of her family to address problems.
Batas is the recognized “settler” while Kitari, the youngest of the Capion siblings provided assistance.
Dagil is the fighter among the Capion siblings and had been leading the armed struggle against SMI and people perceived to be protecting its interest, Dialang said.
“The words of moneyed people are what the public tends to believe. Because we are poor, we are seen as plain bandits even if what we are doing is in defense of our ancestral domain and our way of life,” she said.
Maj. Jacob Obligado, 10th ID civil-military operations officer, said all allegations have been included in the investigation being conducted by the Board of Inquiry, which, Brig. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th ID, has formed.
Obligado said that in the meantime, the Army’s concern has been to provide assistance to the Capion family in coordination with the local tribal council, and beef up security in the area.
Tags: Blaan , clashes , Crime , encounters , Homicide , indigenous cultural communities , law and justice , Military , Military operations , Mining and quarrying , Murder , News , Philippine Army , Sagittarius Mines Inc. , tribal communities