Murder suspect blames turmoil in Tampakan project site on mining firm

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/25 September) — After six months, an ally turned staunch critic of Sagittarius Mines Inc. finally broke his silence on the murder of three people within the mines development site, saying he’s willing to face the charges hurled against him.

Dagil Capion has been in hiding since the ambush last March 25 in Barangay Danlag, Tampakan, South Cotabato against the convoy of LVE Construction, a company owned by the family of Tampakan Mayor Leonardo V. Escobillo Sr.

In a series of phone interviews since last week, the latest on Sunday, Capion claimed involvement in the deadly ambush incident that he noted was triggered by alleged harassments from Sagittarius Mines and the mayor, a supporter of the mining project. They have earlier denied the allegations of harassment.

“It has boiled down to that [ambush] since the company forced its way on our area. We would have wanted a legal agreement instead of a verbal one to settle the problem. Also, if only they did not harass me, I would have threshed out the problem the legal way,” Capion told MindaNews.

Based on the investigation, the suspects used Armalite and Garand rifles in the ambush that also injured another worker of the construction company.

Capion, who claimed to be armed but did not say what kind of gun, said “he will face the music on some conditions, primarily if his brother Pilo Capion would be released from jail since the rape case against him was part of the alleged harassment against my family members.”

Also, Capion urged the military’s Task Force Kitaco to pull out their forces in the mining communities to stop the alleged human rights abuses against the tribal members.

Capion also asked Sagittarius Mines not to further force their way into areas within the mines development site in which the tribal owners have not given their consent to avoid the eruption of hostilities again.

Last month, he narrated that some family members launched an offensive against a military detachment in Sitio Alyong, Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, which resulted in the death of a militiaman, contradicting a military report that it was perpetrated by the communist New People’s Army rebels.

In the mountains within the mines development site, loose firearms proliferate in the hand of tribal members, as seen in a visit more than a year ago there. They use it for protection or hunting.

Asked to comment on the wanted tag, Capion said: “Yes I’m a wanted man, but unlike the others, it’s brought about by a principle that can help my tribe.”

Fr. Romeo Catedral, former Social Action Center director of the Diocese of Marbel, said that violence in the mines development site has been anticipated a long time ago, due to Sagittarius Mines’ presence, but that they are not supporting any violent means to carry out the opposition.

In several interviews he gave before the ambush, Capion, who once worked for the company as a community relations officer, had vehemently opposed the Tampakan project for allegedly disrupting the peace in their community.

He also stressed the mining project would “surely wreck havoc to our mountains, by turning them upside down.” The company eyes open-pit mining, a method banned by the provincial government of South Cotabato.

In one occasion, Capion had warned that “he would not resist taking firearms” if needed, and that he’s willing to die just to protect the mountains from the claws of mining.

John Arnaldo, Sagittarius Mines corporate communications manager, said the mining company has been conducting its activities in the communities “above board.”

He also belied that the mining company has employed the military in harassing tribal members opposed to the Tampakan project.

Arnaldo did not say much on the case of Capion, noting it’s now a “police matter.” (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)