Group seeks review of case vs soldiers for death of 3 Lumads

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/05 November) – A group of human rights lawyers on Tuesday said it will seek a review of the decision of the prosecutor’s office of Digos City dismissing the case against 15 soldiers implicated in the death of three Lumads during a supposed encounter in a mining site late last year.

The soldiers, all coming from the 27th Infantry Battalion, were tagged in the death of Juvy Capion and her sons Jordan, 13, and John Mark, 6, on Oct. 18, 2013 in Sitio Alyong, Barangay Kiblawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur during an operation against Juvy’s husband, Daguel Capion.

Daguel Capion, leader of a tribal armed group opposing the mining venture of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) is facing, among others, murder charges for the killing of three workers of a construction company hired by SMI for a road project in March 2011.

Atty. Emeliano Deleverio of the Union of People’s Lawyer in Mindanao (UPLM) said in a statement they firmly believe there is “probable cause to indict respondents for the death and injury of the victims” and will file this week a petition for review at the Department of Justice.

UPLM, the counsel for the Capion family in the case against the soldiers cited the following facts as enough bases to prosecute the respondents:

• Respondents admit that they were in the place of the crime at the time it happened;
• Respondents were armed with M-16 rifles;
• Among the shells recovered from the crime scene were those from an M-16 rifle;
• Three of the respondents admitted having fired their guns;
• Their shots were aimed at the men who hid behind the hut;
• The victims were inside the hut where the shots were directed;
• Respondents admitted that they moved the victims out of the hut— a very unusual thing to do when one seeks to administer first aid as it could be done without moving them and risk further injury;
• Respondents failed to refute the witnesses’ allegation that they cleaned the house; and
• Witnesses positively pointed to respondents as the persons present in the crime scene immediately after its commission.

“These facts put respondents directly in the crime scene and strongly indicate that they have caused the death and injury of the victims,” the statement said.

It noted that the investigating prosecutor used the term “conviction” and quoted from the rules of evidence on the requirements to convict on circumstantial evidence.

It said the prosecutor “assumed the function of a trial judge calibrating evidence which is proper only in a trial” by looking for “proof that will convict respondents for murder.”

“Further, the prosecutor’s findings directly contradicts those of another agency of government— the Commission on Human Rights — which recommended the filing of murder cases against the soldiers involved in the killings,” UPLM said.

“These facts add further to the weight that there is indeed probable cause, thus, the case should proceed before a regular court,” it added.

After the incident, the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced that at least nine soldiers, including a junior officer, have been relieved of their posts and recommended for court martial.

Lt. Col. Alexis Noel Bravo, 27th IB commander, eventually resigned from his post and was transferred to another assignment also in Mindanao. (MindaNews)