KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/ 23 October) —A Roman Catholic leader has blamed foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. for the mayhem rocking its mines development site, the latest of which was the killing of a mother and her two sons.
Diocese of Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez also demanded a full investigation on the death of the three civilians as he urged the military to relieve the battalion commander overseeing the security situation in the area.
In a press conference late Monday afternoon, Gutierrez said there was relative peace in the mines development site before the entry of Western Mining Corp. in 1995, an Australian company that later sold the rights to Sagittarius Mines.
Now backed by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, Sagittarius Mines plans to excavate massive copper and gold deposits in Tampakan, South Cotabato using open-pit method. Indophil Resources NL, an Australian company, is the junior partner at Sagittarius Mines.
On October 18, Juvy Capion and her sons Jordan, 13, and John Mark, 8, were killed within the mines development site of Sagittarius Mines. Juvy’s 5-year old daughter Becky (earlier reported as Vicky) was wounded in the incident. Another girl, Ressa, 10, was unscathed.
“When Sagittarius/Xstrata/Indophil came, trouble started. Besides this bloody incident, there is now a brewing war between the B’laans of Bong Mal and the B’laan’s of Atmorok,” the bishop said.
The mining company is planning to relocate Bong Mal residents that will be affected by its mining operation to Atmorok.
“These two communities have bad blood between them,” Gutierrez said.
John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines spokesperson, said the mining company “respects the right of all concerned stakeholders to express their views and position on the Tampakan project.”
Juvy Capion was the wife of Daguel Capion, leader of the B’laan tribesmen who took up arms to oppose the mining project of Sagittarius Mines.
The military claimed there was a firefight with the group of Mr. Capion that resulted in the death of Juvy and her sons. She was reportedly 2-month pregnant.
“But those who heard the firing claimed there was no exchange of gunfire,” Gutierrez said in a statement.
He called for the sacking of Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, 27th Infantry Battalion commander, amid the recent killings, and that he should be assigned to Basilan along with the company commander, Lt. Dante Jimenez, who headed the operation.
Jimenez and the eight soldiers involved in the operation have been earlier relieved from their posts. The military has formed a board of inquiry to investigate the incident.
In a presentation during the press conference, the diocesan Social Action Center described the incident as an alleged massacre. The place where the incident happened was a farming area.
The survivors of the incident, along with their guardians, were supposed to be presented at the press conference but they were allegedly intercepted in the town of Tampakan and brought to Kiblawan in Davao del Sur on board a pickup vehicle. (see related story)
Those who took them were allegedly supporters of Sagittarius Mines. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)