13 soldiers face court martial for Davao Sur massacre
Thirteen Army soldiers will face court-martials for shooting dead the wife and two sons of a B’laan tribal leader who opposed a Swiss-Australian mining project in Mindanao, the military said Wednesday.
A military inquiry found the soldiers were negligent when they engaged in a shootout with tribal leader Daguil Capion because they did not try to avoid civilian casualties, said Armed Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza.
“There is a violation of the rules of engagement. You should fire only aimed shots and determine your targets before you fire,” he told the international newswire AFP.
Paniza said a lieutenant and 12 enlisted men involved in the killings could face life in jail if found guilty.
In the incident in upland Kiblawan town in Davao del Sur on Oct. 18, soldiers reportedly opened fire on Capion who was sipping coffee outside his house. His wife and two children, who were sleeping inside were killed. Another child was wounded.
Capion is opposed to the enormous Tampakan copper and gold project in his tribe’s area.
The soldiers claimed Capion, who was being hunted for rebel activities, fired on them as they neared his hut and a firefight ensued.
A Church-based human rights group, however, said it was a “massacre,” and that no firefight occurred. The soldiers arrived at about 6 a.m. and opened fire on the hut.
A coalition of antimining activists, Alyansa Tigil Mina (Stop Mining Alliance), claimed Capion was not even there at the time.
The planned $5.9-billion mine project is run by Swiss mining giant Xstrata and Australia’s Indophil Resources NL.
The mine would be the country’s biggest source of foreign investment if it begins operations in 2016 as scheduled, although influential local church figures, tribal groups and environmental activists fiercely oppose it.
Spokesman for the mining project, Manalo Labor, declined to comment on the investigation but said the company did not condone violence.
Philippine security forces have long been accused of summary killings and other abuses. AFP
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.