GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 November)—The battalion commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion, Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, relinquished his post today following the controversial death of the family members of a tribal leader waging an armed resistance against the massive Tampakan copper-gold project of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc.
Lt. Col Shalimar Imperial, previously the intelligence officer of the 10th Infantry Division, replaced Bravo, who turned over the position hours before the Board of Inquiry, which was formed to investigate the deaths of the civilians, presented its findings in a press conference here this afternoon.
The Board of Inquiry (BOI) found a possible violation on the rules of engagement, and recommended the conduct of general court martial proceedings for 13 soldiers under Bravo, said Maj Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division.
The 13 soldiers, headed by 1Lt. Dante Jimenez, conducted an operation to arrest Daguel Capion that ended in the death of his wife Juvy and sons Jordan, 13, and John Mark, 8, last October 18 in the boundary of Tampakan in South Cotabato and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.
Relatives said Juvy was two months pregnant.
Capion has resorted to an armed struggle against SMI on concerns on the environment, and because of the alleged trampling of tribal rights by the mining company. He admitted killing three workers of a construction company hired by SMI for a road project in March last year.
Bernardo said that Bravo voluntarily gave up his post “not because of the Capion slayings” that drew widespread condemnation from environment and human rights groups, which described the incident as a “massacre.”
“He is due to be relieved even without the incident [because his tour of duty is ending],” said Bernardo, who praised Bravo as a “high performing commander.”
“I admire him for his professionalism and for taking it upon himself to vacate his post,” Bernardo said.
Bernardo said that Bravo would be taking a leave of absence from the service but will make himself available if needed by the General Court Martial.
“I volunteered to be relieved not because I feel guilty [for the death of Juvy Capion and her two sons]. For the past two weeks, I slept well every night. I eat my meals with gusto and my conscience remains crystal clear,” Bravo said in his remarks during the relinquishment of command, a copy of which was given to reporters
An earlier press advisory from the military said the turnover of command would follow after the 1 p.m. press conference where the BOI findings would be presented at the Joint Task Force GenSan headquarters here.
The turnover of command took place earlier Monday morning.
“I volunteered to be relieved as CO [commanding officer] of 27th IB because I believe it is the right thing to do,” Bravo said in his speech.
Col. Glorioso Miranda, 1002nd Infantry Brigade commander, told reporters moments after the press conference that Bravo’s decision “caught” him by surprise.
Miranda said that Bravo should have stayed because there was no order from the higher headquarters to replace him as a result of the death of the three civilians.
Capt. Jimmy Yasol, 10th ID staff judge advocate, said they recommended that the court martial be conducted in the Philippine Army headquarters in Manila.
Yasol said that the 10th ID has its own court martial but to “avoid bias perceptions,” they recommended Manila to conduct the court martial proceedings. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)