Soldier shouted ‘Finish them off,’ before shooting B’laan tribe leader’s wife, sons — witness
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — “Finish them off.”
These were allegedly the words of one of the soldiers accused of killing the wife and two sons of B’laan leader Dagil Capion, as overheard by relatives, last Thursday, when they rushed to Capion’s home and found his two surviving children, Becky (not Vicky as earlier reported), 5, and Riza, 10, inside the hut, where their mother’s and brothers’ body sprawled.
Melanie Capion, Dagil’s sister-in-law, said she and other relatives and neighbors were nearing Dagil’s house in Sitio Alyong in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur when they overheard the soldier – who was speaking in a loud voice to his colleagues.
Capion said she shouted back and appealed to the soldiers not to harm Dagil’s two daughters. Becky had a minor gunshot wound while Riza was unscathed, she said.
Capion said they arrived in the nick of time to save the two daughters from the fate that befell their mother and two brothers.
Major Jacob Obligado, chief of the 10th Infantry Division’s Civil and Military Operations (CMO) Battalion, said “we must be deliberate in our gathering of facts.”
“This is the exact reason why we are conducting the investigation, to determine the truth and ensure that justice should be served,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by text message.
Although he did not categorically deny the claims of Dagil’s relatives, Obligado said soldiers like him were “mandated to serve and protect the people. We fully respect human rights and the International Humanitarian Law.”
He said the board of inquiry, formed in the aftermath of the Kiblawan incident and headed by Colonel Fidel Pumihik, Inspector General of the 10th Infantry Division, had visited the site of the killings and conducted interviews among residents nearby.
Rita Dialang, Dagil’s younger sister, told a press briefing here, on Monday, that the soldiers – based on the accounts of relative and neighbors who were the firsts to arrive at Dagil’s house after the killings – took out Becky and Riza from the hut before hauling the cadavers of Juvy, 13-year-old Pop, and eight-year-old John.
Dialang said the other relatives also overheard one of the soldiers suggesting that the two girls be killed too.
The New People’s Army Valentin Palamine command said its own investigation also showed that Juvy was heard screaming after the first volley of fire and pleaded to the soldiers that her children be spared.
Ka Dencio Madrigal, the NPA unit’s spokesperson, said instead of hearing her plea, the soldiers entered the hut and shot the victims one after the other.
Pastor Zadrach Sabella, deputy secretary general of Karapatan, said members of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, even brought the cadavers of Dagil’s wife and two sons to their detachment in nearby Barangay Datal Biao – about an hour away – in an apparent effort to force him to surrender.
Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley, which has jurisdiction over Kiblawan, urged the public to wait for the result of the investigation being conducted on the killings and “not to rely on unfounded and misleading information.”
Paniza also said the military has been insisting that the deaths of Juvy and her two children in Sitio Alyong on Oct. 18 were the result of a legitimate encounter although the operating unit under the 27th Infantry Battalion had been relieved and were being investigated for possible operational lapses.
In a statement earlier sent to reporters in General Santos City, Sabella urged authorities not to degrade the fight of the B’laans in defense of their ancestral domain.
“They are discrediting Dagil’s anti-mining stance by accusing him of being a bandit. This is to condition the minds of the public that any military operation against Dagil and his group is legitimate and all civilians killed along its course will be collateral damage,” he said, in response to a statement by Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante that Dagil was a plain bandit.
As the deaths of Dagil’s wife and two sons became a cause célèbre, some 1,000 ordained bishops, pastors and lay church workers of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) from all over the country converged in General Santos City on Monday and urged a deeper probe of the killings.
The General Santos summit was part of the UCCP’s national caravan activities, which started Oct. 20.
Pastor Jay Sichon, national president of UCCP’s church workers, said the deaths of Dagil’s wife and children only boosted their campaign against large-scale mining, “which has caused the severe deterioration of the environment and led to the perpetuation of militarization, human rights violations such as displacement, landlessness and poverty, and killings against those who stand in the way of aggressors.”
“The Tampakan Massacre, wherein a family belonging to a B’laan community staunchly opposed to mining has been massacred, is another testament to the continuing impacts of mining on social justice and human dignity. The massacre of the Capion family is highly condemnable and justice must be delivered to the victims who have staunchly stood up against mining in defense of their ancestral land,” Sichon said. Reports from Germelina Lacorte, Aquiles Zonio and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao
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