CHR asked to probe killing of anti-mining activist’s family
GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines — Human rights advocates and pro-environment groups are demanding that the Commission on Human Rights investigate what they charged was the massacre of the family of a B’laan tribal anti-mining activist by Army soldiers in Davao del Sur on Thursday.
The military has said it, too, was saddened by the deaths of the wife of Dagil Capion, Juvy, who was two-months pregnant, and his two sons, Pop, 13, and John, 8, and was conducting its own investigation into the killings.
A daughter of Capion, Vicky, 7, was also injured when soldiers fired on a hut where his family was staying.
The commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry said the killings were the result of a firefight during an operation aimed at capturing Capion, leader of an armed B’laan group the military claims is engaged in banditry.
The Capion family said Dagil, along with his brothers Batas and Kitara, has been waging an armed struggle against the presence of Xstrata’s Sagittarius Mines in their ancestral domain, which straddles the boundaries of Tampakan, South Cotabato, and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
Father Rey Ondap, head of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of the Creation (JPIC) program of the Passionist congregation here, said the killings were tragic specially since Juvy was two months pregnant, and warned they could worsen the situation in areas where SMI operates.
Ondap said the CHR should immediately conduct an investigation into the killings and the national government should stop SMI’s operations.
“The mining site has now turned into a conflict area. Government should stop the operation of SMI to prevent the conflict from escalating,” he said.
Brigadier General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley, said he has ordered the creation of a Board of Inquiry to look into possible violations of the rules of engagement by the troops involved, who have been ordered back to headquarters.
The Quezon City-based Alyansa Tigil Mina said in a statement Thursday the killing of Capion’s family was a “barbaric and treacherous act of the military, against Dagil and his family.”
“We denounce this gross violation of human rights and unnecessary loss of lives and call on the government and the Commission on Human Rights to immediately investigate these killings and bring the perpetrators to justice. We call on the P’noy administration to also pull-out the military not only in Tampakan but in all mining-affected communities,” Max de Mesa, chair of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, said in the same ATM statement.
The Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel in Koronadal City said it was also conducting its own investigation into the killings.
Colonel Alexis Bravo, 27th IB commander, said his soldiers did not deliberately target Capion’s family.
“The 27th IB led by (Lt.) Dante Jimenez went on patrol around 6 a.m. Upon reaching the area they were fired upon by the bandit group,” Bravo said, adding the soldiers returned fire and engaged the “bandits” in a five-minute firefight. Capion, he said, was wounded in the exchange but managed to escape with his men.
Ondap said Capion was visiting his family when the soldiers arrived.
Bravo said his soldiers recovered a rifle grenade, empty shells of M-16 rifle and two M-16 magazines with bullets following the alleged encounter.
Bravo said the soldiers were operating along with policemen and were helping enforce the warrants for Capion’s arrest on murder charges.
“We did not know his wife and children were in the said hut, where the suspects fired from,” he said.
Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Llanera, Davao del Sur police director, said there were no policemen when the alleged clash clash took place and that a team from the Scene of the Crime Operatives were called in after the shooting.
Llanera said he has ordered an investigation and it appeared that Capion’s wife and sons were “collateral damage.”
Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante said Capion was a bandit leader preying on helpless farmers and, at the same time, pestering SMI’s operations.
She said that being bandits, Capion and his men should be pursued and captured so they could be tried in court in connection with murder charges against them.
But for the Diocese of Marbel, Capion was fighting a legitimate cause in defense of the B’laan’s way of life and ancestral domain.
In a statement, the diocese’s Social Action Center said Capion and his tribe had been driven into the forests of Tampakan and face grave threats for their continued opposition to mining.
Dagil, the SAC said, is the nephew of Gorelmin Malid, who was murdered in 2002 because of his strong opposition to the presence of Western Mining Company (WMC), SMI’s predecessor.
“The community has long been opposed to mining in their area. In their fight to protect their right to self-determination, lives have been sacrificed. They suffer militarization, harassment, and vilification in their assertion of their rights to land, way of life, and peaceful existence,” the SAC statement said.
The SAC said it has been urging the government to conduct a deeper probe into situation of the B’laan in the South Cotabato-Davao del Sur area instead of treating them as bandits.
“Juvy and her children have been added to the long list of those murdered in the fight for the right to land and life,” the SAC said.
“It was well known that he is not a rebel, not a member or supporter of either the communist insurgents or the Muslim rebel groups. He is a B’laan warrior tasked by his clan to protect the ancestral domains,” Jaybee Garganera, Alyansa Tigil Mina national coordinator, said.
Bravo said Capion’s group may be “very small in number” but is considered notorious and should not be handled lightly.
He claimed Capion was also allied with the New People’s Army.
“We are saddened by the incident but we are now extending the necessary assistance needed by the family of Capion in coordination with the Bongmal Tribal Council,” Bravo said.
Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th ID, said a Quick Reaction Team headed by Maj. Jacob Obligado set off for Kiblawan and Tampakan to attend to the needs of the Capion family.
Bravo said they welcomed any investigation into the killings and was confident the military will eventually be vindicated.
“The victims were simply caught in the crossfire between government troops and a bandit group led by (Juvy’s) her own husband,” Capt. William Alfred Rodriguez of the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade based in Malungon, Sarangani, said in a statement. Reports from Aquiles Zonio, Orlando Dinoy and Allan Nawal, Inquirer Mindanao
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