KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews/29 August)—The family of a revered tribal elder will file murder charges against the military as they maintained that “Bong Fulong” or tribal leader Anteng Freay and his 17-year old son, Victor, were not killed in an encounter inside the mines development site of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) on August 23, contrary to the military’s claim.
Fr. Joy Pelino, Social Action Center (SAC) director of the Diocese of Marbel, noted in its fact-finding report that the alleged encounter “happened only after the military killed the two.”
A total of 134 empty shells of different high-powered guns were found in Anteng Freays’ place alone, the priest said.
“Bong Fulong” was killed outside his house near the road in Bulol Kalon, Sitio T’bol, Brgy. Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao Del Sur while Victor was killed in a nearby cornfield a few meters from the road, according to the report.
Pelino went to the scene of the incident on August 24, a day after the Freays were killed, along with SAC workers Rene Pamplona, Teresa Posas and Amilie Lara; Fr. Rey Carvyn Ondap of the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ’s Catholic Mission to the Indigenous Peoples; Kagawad Amay Collado from the Pulabato Tribal Council; and Jean Ferrari of the Legal Rights Center.
The priest said murder charges will be filed against members of the Task Force Kitaco and the 39th Infantry Battalion.
Pamplona, SAC’s advocacy officer, said there are at least 10 witnesses who will testify against the suspects.
Celso Doc, Pulabato tribal chieftain and a nephew of Anteng Freay, is helping the SAC build up the case against the military, Pamplona said.
Doc, also the barangay captain of Pulabato in Tampakan, South Cotabato, is among the tribal chieftains known to support the mining venture of SMI.
Pamplona said Doc’s stance on the Tampakan project is “becoming clearer” with his intention to help file a case against the military.
Doc could not be reached for comment
Capt. William Rodriguez, 1002nd Infantry Brigade spokesperson, said Thursday they would welcome the case that would be filed against the military.
“We are open to any investigation,” he said in a telephone interview.
Rodriguez said the numerous bullets that the SAC team found “did not come from the military but from the armed men” who attacked the soldiers securing the site hours after the Freays were killed.
He said the families of slain government security forces would also file cases against the armed men opposing the mining project of SMI.
Since February 2013, we have recorded 11 attacks against military detachments in the mines development site, leading to the death of three militiamen, Rodriguez said.
Among those facing murder charges for these attacks are Daguel Capion and Iking Freay, he said.
Capion started the armed tribal opposition against SMI for allegedly disrespecting the rights of the indigenous peoples. Last October, his wife Juvy and their two children were killed in what the military claimed was a “legitimate military operation.”
Until the August 23 incident, the military has been on the defensive posture despite the attacks in their detachments by the armed men because “we want to show that we are for peace” in the area, Rodriguez said.
The Tampakan project of SMI is the largest known undeveloped copper-gold reserve in Southeast Asia, containing an estimated 17.9 million ounces of gold and 15 million metric tons of copper deposits.
Glencore Xstrata plc owns 62.5 percent of the controlling equity after the merger of the two companies, while the rest or 37.5 percent is held by Australian firm Indophil Resources NL. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)