"Arrest orders" out for SMI officials, Army officers

In a statement sent to the local press here, NDF Far South Mindanao spokesperson ka Efren said Billanes was gunned down allegedly by “the mercenary death squad of Task Force KITACO of the 10th Infantry Division” reportedly on orders of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“Task Force KITACO (which stands for Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbio – the three municipalities which are the main mining sites of the company) was created by the 10th ID under MGen Reynaldo Mapagu for the singular purpose of protecting Xstrata-SMI,” according to Ka Efren.

He named Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu of the 10th ID, Lt. Col. Joshua Santiago of the 27th IB, Lt. Col. Lyndon Panisa of the 39th IB as among those covered by the “arrest warrants.”

Col Rainer Cruz, commanding officer of the 1002nd Brigade based in Malungon, Sarangani cannot be reached through his mobile phone for immediate reaction but he earlier said the military was not behind the killing.

Mapagu said “lahat na lang binabato sa amin because the NPA is hurting. Marami nang nag-surrender  (everything is being blamed on us because the NPA is hurting. Many of them have surrendered).

“Sige lang. It goes with the territory. It will not deflect us from doing our job,” Mapagu said.

Billanes was gunned down by a still unidentified gunman in Koronadal City on March 9 moments after he attended a dialogue with the military in connection with the alleged death threats the slain activist received prior to his death.

The NDF also included retired Army officer Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan in the “charge sheet.”

Ka Efren said rebel intelligence officers Palparan, now a member of the House of Representative, was reportedly hired by SMI as a security consultant.

“As a matter of fact, Palparan was seen in the premises of the company weeks before Boy’s death or specifically during an orientation of Task Force Kitaco,” the rebel spokesperson said.

He also accused top officials of SMI as behind Billanes’ slay.

SMI is conducting exploration activities in the mountain ranges that cut across the boundaries of South Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Sultan Kudarat.

SMI general manager Mark Williams, an Australian national, has denied any involvement in the murder of Billanes.

Last week, Xstrata Plc announced it has concluded its pre-feasibility studies and will need US$5.2 billion in initial capital outlay to build the necessary infrastructure for the extraction of copper and gold deposits in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

SMI President Peter Forrstal said they will employ open pit mining to extract ore deposits in the area, a move strongly opposed by the Catholic Church and environmental groups.

The CPP-NPA-NDF has repeatedly warned it would launch armed attacks against the company to prevent it from extracting the mines. (Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews contributor)