KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/23 August)– A revered “bong fulong” or tribal elder in the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) was killed Friday morning in another fresh violence at the controversial Tampakan copper-gold project, allegedly by soldiers pursuing an armed tribal group in the area, various sources said.
The military said “two armed tribal members were killed in an encounter with government troops.”
Reports gathered by the Social Action Center (SAC) identified the victim as Anteng Freay, head claimant of the Ancestral Domain territory of the Atbol B’laan territory.
“We are still validating if two other children of the victim were also killed,” said Rene Pamplona, SAC advocacy officer.
Pamplona told MindaNews that relatives of the victim were not allowed by the military to go to the house of Freay, as fighting still raged on hours after he was reported killed.
Freay was killed at his house in Bolol Talon in Sitio Alyong in Bong Mal, which sits at the heart of the mines development site of SMI, said Amay Collado, a kagawad of Barangay Danlag in Tampakan town, South Cotabato.
Collado told Bombo Radyo here that based on the initial information that he got at around 5 a.m. Friday, government forces allegedly raided the area.
Our tribal constituents in the area reported that the military allegedly fired the shots that killed the victim, Collado said.
“The victim was a respected tribal elder in Bong Mal,” he added.
“This is very sad. This is what happens when the government turns a blind eye on the apparent relation of violence and mining in Tampakan. How many massacres will it take to make our government act on this?” said Fr. Oliver Castor, project officer of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc., said in a statement.
PMPI has been staunchly campaigning for the government to stop SMI from pursuing the Tampakan project.
Capt. William Rodriguez, spokesperson of the 1002nd Infantry Brigade, said the victim and a certain Victor were killed in the encounter with members of the military-led task Force Kitaco.
Rodriguez said they are still validating if one of those killed was a tribal elder, since the name they got from the field identified the victim as “Anteng Peayay.”
“The investigation is still on going and we will soon find out if these two conflicting names belong to the same person,” he said in a phone interview.
Rodriguez said that soldiers recovered from the encounter site two firearms allegedly owned by the slain men.
The military official said that soldiers have indeed prevented relatives of the fatalities to enter the area as fighting continue between the government forces and the armed group.
Asked if the armed group that the military encountered was headed by Daguel Capion, Rodriguez said they have yet to determine that.
Capion is a leader of a tribal armed group battling to stop SMI from pursuing the project. Last October, his wife and their two children were killed during a military operation in the mines development site.
A dialogue was slated later Friday between Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez and Col. Norman Marcos Flores, 1002nd IB commander, regarding the latest atrocity within the Tampakan project area. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)