SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Gold yard, graveyard

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/26 October) – A week after the tragedy in Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur that left a pregnant mother and her two sons dead, no government office or official has issued a pronouncement on the incident. Not the local government. Not the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

I wonder why the CHR, which is now headed by a former activist, has been mum on what human rights groups and even Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez believe was a massacre. Such attitude is in stark contrast to now Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the former chair of CHR who was known for her independence in confronting human rights abuses during the previous administration.

All that has been reported so far is that the Armed Forces of the Philippines has formed a Board of Inquiry that will determine if the soldiers involved had violated the military’s rules of engagement.

Bishop Gutierrez however has declared he is more inclined to believe in the information given by his social action workers that it was a massacre.

From the legal viewpoint, it is unfair to rush into conclusions. But perception is reality and will remain as such unless convincing evidence presents itself. The problem is, how would the military explain the deaths of three civilians (four if we include the fetus in Juvy Capion’s womb) and the zero casualties on its side and on the group of Juvy’s husband, Daguil Capion? The military also has to explain why the scene of incident had been “sanitized”, that is, evidence had been tampered with, as claimed by an anti-mining group.

The place where the victims lived is part of the mining tenement of Sagittarius Mines Inc. Daguil Capion and a number of fellow B’laans are opposing the presence of Sagittarius in their ancestral domain, and have resorted to arms to defend it. This is the reason why anti-mining groups believe the incident was a deliberate move to silence the Lumads’ resistance, although another group of Lumads is supporting the mining project.

That’s it. The root of the violence that has engulfed the area is the entry of SMI whose tenement also covers Tampakan in South Cotabato and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat. As in other mining communities, SMI’s presence has caused conflicts among the local people. Daguil Capion’s armed resistance and the deaths of his wife and two children illustrate the social evils of a mining venture that amasses mega-profits but leaves just a pittance to host communities that will inherit environmental destruction as well as social divisions that may
take generations to heal.

Of course, SMI couldn’t care less if the rivers turn murky and the people remain divided long after the last ounce of gold and copper has been dug out from the same earth where Juvy and her two sons were buried. In the end, profit is the only thing that matters.

So, did the soldiers break their own rules of engagement? Maybe this question matters, but how about the government’s rules of engagement with mining companies? This is a legitimate question too. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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