KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews / 18 October) – A mother and her two children were killed early Thursday morning in the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. following an encounter between government forces and tribesmen opposing the mining project.
The slain mother, Juvy Capion, 28, was the wife of Daguel Capion, leader of the armed band who declared war against Sagittarius Mines allegedly for disrespecting the rights of the B’laan tribesmen.
Killed along with Juvy were her sons Jordan, 13 (child to her first husband), and John Mark, 6, her child with Daguel.
Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, claimed that a tipster informed soldiers about the presence of Daguel in Purok Uno, Sitio Alyong, Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
“Our troops were fired upon while approaching the area so they retaliated,” the military official said in a radio interview.
A gunfight lasted for several minutes after which the armed men retreated to the forest, Bravo said.
Daguel Capion had admitted to the killing in March last year of three workers of a construction company hired by Sagittarius Mines for a road project, out of disgust to the mining company.
Daguel was reportedly injured in this morning’s clash. Also injured was a female relative of Dot Capion, tribal chieftain of Bong Mal. Daguel Capion and Dot Capion are also relatives, although the latter is supportive of the mining venture.
Sources say the firefight occurred in an area where the victims were doing farm work in Bong Mal.
Although the tribal chieftain supports the mining venture, it is also the hotbed of opposition against the Tampakan project.
Rene Pamplona, the advocacy officer of the Diocese of Marbel, which is assisting tribal communities opposing the operation of Sagittarius Mines, said they have documented various human rights violations in Bong Mal even before Monday morning’s deaths.
In September, the Diocese of Marbel and some tribal members from Bong Mal held a dialogue with Commission on Human Rights chief Etta Rosales in Cotabato City.
The CHR vowed to conduct an immediate investigation on the reported human rights violations but the probe has yet to begin.
Jesus Vicente Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina, questioned the military operation that resulted to the death of the mother and her two children.
“Our impression is there is a status quo order on military actions in Tampakan since May 2012 to prevent further escalation of violence in the area, as the B’laans [then] set up barricades against SMI and the military not to enter [their] ancestral domain,” Garganera said in a text message.
In an interview early this month in Sitio Alyong, Juvy lamented the hardships the family faced after Daguel’s opposition to the mining company forced him to go into hiding.
“It’s very difficult because the men were in hiding and they couldn’t help in the farm work,” she said.
Before Daguel took up arms and went into hiding, the family enjoyed a relative economic prosperity, owning a sari-sari store, two motorcycles and a billiard table, she recalled.
Daguel had been maintaining vast tracts of lands planted to corn.
Now the contents of the store are gone. Only the billiard table is sustaining Juvy and her children’s needs, she said then. The motorcycles are still with them.
Fr. Peter Geremia, assistant parish priest of Arakan in North Cotabato and head of the Tribal Filipino Desk of the Diocese, condemned the killing of Juvy and the two children.
“This is an extreme act of violence. Why are those opposing SMI becoming the target of violence?” the priest said on the phone.
Geremia, who was earlier assigned to the Columbio parish in Sultan Kudarat, one of the towns straddled by the Tampakan project, recalled that Juvy stayed at the parish’s training center when she was young.
Juvy was rescued with the other tribesmen from the forests after hiding from the guards of a logging concession, he recalled.
Security problems have been hobbling the Tampakan project of Sagittarius Mines. On New Year’s Day 2008, communist rebels attacked the firm’s base camp in Barangay Tablu and burned properties and facilities worth P12 million.
Last June, B’laan tribesmen opposing the mining project killed a consultant of Sagittarius Mines and a police escort in the mines development site. It came three days after an unidentified suspect killed a security guard of the mining company also in the mines development site. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)