AFP confirms operations near Tampakan mine site

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 Jan) – The military here confirmed ongoing military operations near the boundary of South Cotabato and Cotabato provinces that could include areas near the mine site of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

Col. Edgardo “Boogie” de Leon, operations officer of the AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said a composite team of soldiers from the different military units under the 1002nd Brigade is moving towards the boundary near the area of responsibility of the neighboring 602nd Brigade.

De Leon, however, declined to reveal the exact location and direction of the government forces that are said to be running after heavily armed members of the New People’s Army who recently celebrated the 44th founding anniversary of its political arm, the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“We cannot divulge their exact positions for security reasons,” he said.

The military officer said intelligence reports from the 602IB allegedly monitored a column of NPA rebels getting into the direction of a remote military detachment during the Christmas season when a mutually agreed ceasefire was supposed to be in effect, prompting the AFP to launch the operations.

De Leon said it is a routine security operation.

MindaNews earlier reported that five military trucks arrived in Tampakan Tuesday evening coming from the direction of Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

The report quoted Capt. William Rodriguez, civil military officer of the 1002IB, as saying in a text message the soldiers reportedly “passed by the mines development site towards their detachments in Tampakan town.”

The statement of Rodriguez contradicted De Leon, who said the troop movement by the 1002IB is a coordinated operation with the 602IB aimed at flushing out NPA rebels in the area.

The MindaNews report earlier said fugitive tribal leader Daguil Capion saw the soldiers arrive in Tampakan Tuesday evening.

In October, Capion’s wife Juvy and two sons were killed when elements from the 27th Infantry Battalion raked their hut in Kimlawis, Kiblawan with heavy automatic and machinegun fire. Capion cheated death by opting to sleep outside their house the night before the soldiers swooped down on their hut.

The killing was immediately condemned by local Catholic churches here and international human rights groups.

Capion took arms in protest over the continued mining operations of SMI in the quad boundaries of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, Malungon in Sarangani and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

He has since admitted responsibility over the ambush-slayings of several people that included three SMI drill contractors and a security consultant and two security guards of the mining company.

A warrant of arrest has been issued against Capion who is said to be leading at least 15 heavily armed Blaan tribe members who are opposing the mining operations of SMI. (Edwin Espejo / MindaNews contributor)