DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 January) – Another member of a tribal clan opposing the Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines, Inc. was killed in an alleged encounter with the military.
Capt. William Rodriguez, 1002nd Infantry Brigade civil military officer, identified the fatality as Kitari Capion, who was declared dead by physicians in a hospital in Koronadal City around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday.
The fatality was the younger brother of Daguel Capion, the leader of an armed tribal group opposing the operations of Sagittarius Mines in their ancestral domain.
In October last year, the tribal leader’s wife Juvy and their two young children were killed in an alleged firefight between government troops and Capion’s group also within the mines development site. Critics of the Tampakan project described the incident as a “massacre.” Thirteen soldiers involved in the operation were later recommended for a court martial for apparently breaking the rules of engagement.
Rodriguez said that a firefight ensued between nine soldiers and the Capion brothers and their four followers around 7 a.m. Wednesday.
“Our troops were talking with the community in Nakultana when they were fired upon, first by a Carbine rifle and then by an M-79 grenade launcher. The troops were on routine patrol,” Rodriguez said on the phone.
Nakultana is a sitio in Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan town, Davao del Sur, where the other Capion family members have been staying.
Rodriguez said the government troops retaliated that left Kitari wounded in the hip.
The military official stressed it was a “legitimate encounter,” citing also that there is a gun ban in connection with the May 2013 polls.
Kitari was brought to the hospital after his companions retreated following a five-minute exchange of gunfire, said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said that Kitari was still alive when they brought him to the hospital, though the military official could not say what time they exactly arrived there.
There was almost a seven-hour difference from the time of the encounter until he was pronounced dead. Travel from Nakultana to Koronadal City would take around two hours.
With Kitari Capion’s death, he urged Daguel Capion to yield and face the charges filed against him.
Daguel admitted responsibility to the killing in March 2011 of three workers of a construction company hired by Sagittarius Mines for a road project.
He said they were forced to resort to violence because of the alleged disrespect by Sagittarius Mines to the rights of tribal community members.
The military has considered Capion’s group as “bandits.”
Two weeks ago, the military deployed additional soldiers to the mines development site of Sagittarius Mines. They were deployed nighttime on board five military trucks.
Earlier, Diocese Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez warned that a tribal war might erupt within the tenement of Sagittarius Mines.
There are tribal members who also support the mining project of Sagittarius Mines.
Gutierrez had blamed the presence of the mining company for the atrocities that erupted in the area.
Xtrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, controls Sagittarius Mines, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the junior partner. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)