Soldiers in Tampakan operation facing probe; militants warn of whitewash

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 19 October)—The commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion (IB) and his men involved in the operation that killed a mother and her two sons in the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Tampakan, South Cotabato on Thursday will face a military investigation, an official said on Friday.

Infographics by Keith BacongcoImmediately, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in SOCCSKSARGEN Region warned a possible whitewash of the incident it described as a massacre.

Relieving Lt. Col Alex Bravo, 27th IB commander, Lt Dante Jimenez, company commander and several others soldiers from their posts “is covering up all their alleged human rights violations,” Ryan Lariba, the group’s spokesperson, said in a phone interview.

Killed Thursday morning was Juvy Capion, wife of Daguel Capion, a leader of the B’laan armed group that is opposing the Tampakan mining project.

Also killed were her sons Jordan (Pop), 13, and Mark John (Jan-Jan), 6. Jordan was Juvy’s son by her first marriage.

Capion was reportedly wounded in the incident, which Bravo had described as an encounter.

Bravo, Jimenez and the rest of the members involved in the operation were directed to report to the 10th Infantry Division for investigation, Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, the division’s spokesperson, said in a phone interview Friday.

Paniza said that a board of inquiry has been created to investigate the possible violation of the rules of engagement by the participating troops in the operation.

He clarified that Bravo was not sacked from his post, only Jimenez and the 11 soldiers under his command.

Lariba said that the entire 27th IB should be pulled out from Tampakan “to put an end to all the human rights violations against the indigenous people in the mountains of Tampakan.”

He said the 27th IB has violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Bayan and other human rights and environmental advocates staged Friday a protest at the office of Sagittarius Mines in General Santos City to condemn the killing of Juvy and her sons.

Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, plans to extract massive copper and gold deposits in the mountains of Tampakan using open-pit, a mining method banned by the South Cotabato government.

Manolo Labor, a Sagittarius Mines official, said the military was not there solely to protect SMI, “but to maintain peace and order in the area.”

Labor denied allegation that SMI has private armies, saying the company only had “blue guards” or security guards to secure their employees and offices.

Juanito Malid, chieftain of the Salnaong tribal council and an uncle of Juvy, said in a phone interview they were shocked by the incident.

“We never thought that could happen to them. Their skulls bore holes from gunshots,” said Malid, who supports the Tampakan project.

The mining project of Sagittarius Mines has caused a division among the clan.

Juvy and her sons were to be buried Friday afternoon beside their home in Datal Biao, Barangay Danlag in Tampakan, said Malid, a first cousin of Capion, the leader of the armed B’laan fighting up the Tampakan project. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro with reports from Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)