Politicians, military blamed for Tampakan massacre

The military claims that the massacre of Juvy Capion and her two children Jordan, 13, and Janjan, 8, was a ‘legitimate encounter.’ Now, they have taken one of the survivors, four-year-old Becky.


MANILA — Two weeks after the human rights community was shocked over the brutal massacre of the Capion family at the hands of the 18th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) South Cotabato, local government officials have reportedly remained mostly indifferent and apathetic. This is the charge of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in General Santos City.

Bayan Socsksargen secretary general Ryan Lariba said local government officials in the region have done essentially nothing to go after the perpetrators of the massacre that brutally claimed the lives of three civilians Juvy Capion, 27 and her two children Jordan, 13, and Janjan, 8. Juvy was confirmed to have been pregnant at the time she was killed after elements of the 19th IB strafed her house last October 18 in Fayahlob, Sitio Datal-Alyong , Brgy. Danlag, Tampakan, South Cotabato.

“We are dismayed over the deafening silence of local government officials and all those who are seeking local positions come the 2013 polls. The massacre has generated outrage nationwide, it’s all over the news and internet, but not a single local government official, or a candidate for that matter has spoken to condemn it, much less seek justice for the victims of this horrible massacre”, Lariba said.

It has also been confirmed that the massacre was connected to the mining operations of Xstrata Saguitarius Mining Incorporated and its Tampakan Copper-Gold Project. The victims were the immediate family — wife and children — of Dagil Capion, a lumad leader waging a pangayaw or tribal war against the Xstrata-SMI and the AFP. The military is serving as the mining company’s armed guards. The SMI-Xstrata Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) for the Tampakan Gold-Copper Mining Project covers 23, 571 hectares in four provinces namely, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao del Sur, and Saranggani. The permit overlaps four ancestral domains including CADT 102, CADT 108, CADT 72 and CADC 74.

Lariba said there is no doubt in their minds that the military massacred Capion’s family and attempted to kill Capion himself as part of their work to protect the interests of Xstrata-SMI.

“We can’t be blamed if we think that these ‘mute’ politicians may be waiting for campaign funds from Xstrata-SMI. Remember, the company is hell-bent on quashing the local environmental code of South Cotabato, and prevent other local government units from passing similar resolutions,” he said. He alleged that politicians are most likely waiting for the mining company to woo them with campaign funds, and that the mining firm wants to ensure that those who get elected will continue to support the local mining operations.

“We challenge every politician or candidate all over Socsksargen and Davao Del Sur, incumbent and aspirants alike, to speak up and condemn the massacre. They should join the campaign for justice for the Capion family and stop Xstrata-SMI from plundering our natural resources and devastating the environment. This is the most opportune time for them to show that really they stand for the interest of the people”, Lariba said.

“La furol gameh, fagaflosh gameh!”

The indigenous people’s group Kalgad for its part said they will not back down from their opposition against Xstrata-SMI. Capion was a member of the Kalgad.

“La furol gameh, fagaflosh gameh! (We will not back down, we will struggle on!) We mourn the deaths of our tribe members who were innocent civilians. We remain courageous even in the face of great sorrow and danger, because we know that our cause is just and righteous and we know that in the end our D’wata will favor us,” it said in a statement signed by its chairperson Erita Capion Dialang.

Dialang said the Blaan people have been long suffering the abuses of the 27th IB, and after the Capion family’s massacre, the protests will intensify.

It said that in a community dialogue, a few years back, between the 27th IB and the residents of the community, a 1Lt. Dante Jimenez promised them that they will not harm civilians and that they had the mandate to protect civilians from “evil people.”

“They revealed their true nature when they mercilessly massacred Juvy and her children,” she said.

The Kalgad leader said they were “particularly distraught” over the lies of the 27th IB. The military unit, in statements to the media, claimed that the massacre was not intentional and that there was an armed encounter between soldiers and Capion’s group.

“To set the record straight, there was no armed encounter. This was attested by the two survivors of the brutal massacre. Juvy and two of her children were still lying on the mat while 12-year old Pop was boiling water for coffee when elements of the 27th IB strafed their small hut. Juvy, by instinct, embraced and tried to shield two of her children – John whom she embraced until his death, and Becky, 4, who, fortunately, hid behind her mother’s back and survived,” she said.

Becky sustained a gunshot wound to her left ear.

Dialang also expressed outrage against the statements of the military and the assertions of several LGU officials namely Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante that Daguil, and his companions are “ordinary bandits” engaged in petty crimes.

Diamante, in media interviews, has called for “sobriety and tact.” She has essentially ordered a public manhunt against Daguil and put a bounty for his capture.

The official justified the order by saying that Daguil allegedly might start a pangayaw, or tribal war, against the mining purveyors.

“Daguil Capion and others are the tribe’s bagani, tasked to protect our ancestral land from the aggressive encroachment by the unwanted giant mining firm. He is now leading a pangayaw against the military and other armed groups protecting Xstrata-SMI. With the massacre of Juvy and her children, the military and the mining firm have only themselves to blame when intensified attacks are launched by those who are waging the pangayaw,” she said.

Dialang also declared her organization’s concern over reports that the Philippine Army’s 39th IB under Lt. Col. Norman Zuniega will take over the territorial assignments of the 27th IB. 39th IB. It said the unit has the same track record of massive human rights violators as the 27th IB.

“Only this year in Sta. Maria, Davao del Sur, the 39th IB illegally detained our fellow B’laans Lindy Dawang, 21, and Tayet Magwan, 27, because they were the wives of members of the New People’s Army (NPA). We want to reiterate that our demand is the immediate pull-out of all military personnel from our communities, and not the replacement of the 27th IB by an equally savage military unit. More importantly, Oplan Bayanihan must be stopped as it is the cause of massive military deployment in the countrysides and mining areas,” she said.

Dialang also demanded that Xstrata-SMI permanently leave the B’laan communities.

“Before their entry to our ancestral lands, people from our tribe lived peacefully. We were gifted by D’wata with clean rivers to quench our thirst, fertile lands to plant rice and corn and vegetables, a lush forest where we get all other necessities. But now, our existence is being threatened by this unwanted ‘development.’ Land is Life, and if they take away our land, our tribe will die. Many tribe members have sacrificed their lives in defense of our ancestral lands. But we will never give up our fight. We will persevere in our struggle, even if it will cost of lives,” she said.

A cover-up in the works?

According to a report from Rappler.com, the survivors of the massacre of the Capion family, two minors, are now being fought over by government authorities and human rights workers.

Four-year-old Becky and 11-year-old Ressa Piang were on board a “habal-habal” (passenger motorcycle) along with grandmother Diya Capion and aunts Sabelin and Rosita when they were flagged down by a certain Josephine Malid in Barangay Danlag in Tampakan, South Cotabato, last October 22.The two children are the lone witnesses to the massacre.

The Rappler report quoted an employee of the diocese’s Social Action Center (SAC), Rene Pamplona as saying that the two children were prevented from going to the residence of Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez in Marbel, South Cotabato, and were instead taken to the social welfare office in Kiblawan.

The woman, Malid, reportedly works for the SMI-supported Tribal Foundation. The Rappler report said Malid led the Capions to a white pick-up truck allegedly owned by the mining firm and first took them to the Tampakan municipal social welfare office. Pamplona said, however, that Malid and the Capions were turned away as there was no prior coordination with the social welfare authorities.

“At that point, Lt. Joel Wayagwag allegedly told Malid to instead bring the Capions to Kiblawan in Davao del Sur for medical attention, according to Pamplona. Wayagwag is the head of the Philippine Army’s Task Force Kitaco, a special unit formed to secure the tri-boundary towns of Kiblawan in Davao del Sur, Tampakan in South Cotabato and Columbio in Sultan Kudarat,” the Rappler report went on.

There has also been a report that Mayor Diamante wanted to take the two children to Davao, this despite the fact that the children were already with their relatives from the area. Cristina Hawtay, lawyer and staff of the Commission on Human Rights Region XII pacified the tug-of-war between Diamante’s group and Daguil Capion’s mother. The children are now with the Social Action Center of Marbel.

As of this writing, there is an unconfirmed report that the PA’s 10th Infantry Division has custody of Becky.

Maj. Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, commander of 10th Civil Military Operations Battalion of 10th Infantry Division, said the Army will provide assistance to the child.

In the meantime, a report from the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) indicated that when Aileen Capion, a relative of the Capions, went back to the crime scene, together with other relatives, they saw that the crime scene was already cleaned-up by the soldiers. The military allegedly washed the blood with water and the clothes of the victims were thrown outside the house. When the police investigators arrived, the crime scene was already sanitized. But the police investigators still witnessed “the splattered brain and bloodstains on the wall.”

Killings against anti-mining activists

According to the records of the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, Task Force-Justice for Environment Defenders (TF-JED) the Capions are the 45th to 47th anti-mining victims of extrajudicial killings since 2001.

Under the Aquino government, a total of 24 environmental advocates have so far been killed. Eighteen of the victims were involved in the struggle against destructive mining operations.

The Defend Patrimony Alliance against Mining Liberalization said the continuing liberalization of the mining industry in the Philippines through the Mining Act of 1995 and the recent Executive Order 79 furthers the culture of impunity against environment defenders.

“These atrocities would not have happened if large-scale mining transnational corporations were not permitted to deplete our mineral resources at the expense of the people’s needs, rights and their environment in the first place. Instead, Aquino has continued to provide them incentives and guarantees, including allowing TNCs to payroll paramilitary defense forces. These onerous mining policies must be junked and replaced by genuine pro-people and pro-environment mining laws,” said Fr. Oliver Castor, convener of Defend Patrimony.

The green groups called for the permanent cancellation of the Tampakan Project and other mining operations with track records of human rights violations.

They also reiterated calls for the dismantling of all paramilitary groups formed to protect mining investments and other ‘development projects,’ and the junking of Oplan Bayanihan which, they said, is the military and Aquino government’s campaign against environmental advocates and all human rights activists. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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