Groups vow to seek justice for slain B’laans

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/23 October) — Several progressive groups here vowed to help seek justice for a B’laan mother and her two sons who were killed in an alleged massacre in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur last October 18.

In a press conference on Monday at the Ateneo de Davao University, the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (Samin), Barug Katungod Mindanao, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy Center (Apila), Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao, Kalikasan partylist, Karapatan and Kalumaran said they will support the quest for justice for the Capion family.

Juvy Capion, 27, who was two-month pregnant, and her sons, John Mark, 8, and Jordan, 13, were killed when elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion strafed their house in Sitio Datal-Alyong, Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan. Her daughter Becky, 5, survived with several gunshot wounds. Another girl, Ressa Piang, 8, was unscathed.

Lt Col Alex Bravo, battalion commander of the 27th IB, said it was a legitimate encounter with the armed group led by Daguil Capion, Juvy’s husband, who has waged a “pangayaw” or tribal war against foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI).

But Erita Capion-Dialang, Daguil’s sister said it was not an encounter and that Daguil was 200 meters away from the hut where Juvy and the children were killed.

Mae Fe Templa, Barug Katungod Mindanao convenor, said they would appeal to the United Nations (UN) agencies and instruments because “we can’t rely anymore on our State agencies as this act constitutes State violence against women and their children.”

She cited in particular the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“There are many Juvys in the island unnamed and now we have projected them in the faces of the children of Juvy.  We appeal to the UN agencies to intervene,” she said.

Sister Noemi Degala of Samin called the incident “a gross violation of the dignity of women, especially IP women, who are sisters before God and before the people.”

Lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate of the UPLM said his group will extend legal assistance to Capion’s family.

Saying the perpetrators can be charged with homicide before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, either of Davao del Sur or South Cotabato, he urged relatives of the victims to pursue the case.

“We will not accept the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) statement that Juvy and his kids were collateral damage because if there was an encounter, why was none of the soldiers wounded?” Zarate said.

He said that considering the Philippines’ justice system, the fight for justice should also resort to methods outside of the legal processes.

In a statement, Apila director Romeo T. Cabarde Jr. said that together with its partners, Alternate Forum for Research Initiatives in Mindanao and Panalipdan, the group “stands firm in condemning these atrocious killings of environmental defenders”.

“We are deeply concerned that no responses are reportedly made by the local government units in the area, even when victims seek for protection on account of multiple threats emanating from the armed guards of the mining companies,” the group said.

Apila added: “Let us join hands in calling for the cessation of mining operations in the country since mining tenements have been transformed over the years as killing fields.”

Karapatan- Socsksarrgen Region said there have been 29 cases of mining-related human rights violations in mining areas, involving 3,941 victims, since President Benigno Aquino III took office.

“These are all committed by the military in defense of Xstrata-SMI’s mining interests. They are the root cause of conflict in Lumad areas, thus, it is a must that both the military and the mining company should get out of these previously-peaceful communities,” Zadrach Sabella, deputy secretary general of Karapatan- Socsksargen, said.

In a joint statement, Panalipdan and Kalikasan said: Tthe blood of the Capion family is in the hands of a State that condones such injustice through laws and policies such as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, reinforced by the Executive Order 79 that have become instruments of plunder, injustice and violence rather than of the promised progress and growth.”

SMI will extract gold and copper through open-pit mining in the areas of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Kiblawan in Davao del Sur and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

In 2010, however, the provincial government of South Cotabato has passed an ordinance banning open-pit mining in the province. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources cited the ordinance as the basis for denying SMI’s application for an Environmental Compliance Certificate for its mining project which was scheduled to start commercial operations by 2016. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews)