“The victims were unarmed and helpless, as most of them were still sleeping. It was only the elder son who was awake and in school uniform, sipping coffee outside the hut and who can be clearly seen and identified by the soldiers and yet they still fired at Jordan.”
By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA
KIBLAWAN, Davao del Sur–A retired Philippine Army colonel allegedly played an active role in events that led to the massacre of a two-month old pregnant B’laan woman and her two sons last October 18.
Dan Balandra, reportedly a former colonel in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and a security consultant to Sagitarrius Mines, Inc. (SMI)-Xstrata, was seen at the site of the incident for three consecutive days before elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army killed Juvy Capion and her two sons.
According to witnesses, Balandra visited the Capion family three times, preceding the massacre of the pregnant Juvy, Jordan, 15 years old and John Mark, seven years old. A daughter, five-year-old Juvicky, survived the attack but was grazed by a bullet in her left ear.
The National Peace and Solidarity Mission led by the Justice for Capion Family, Justice for All Network to remote Alyong subvillage, Kimlawis village, this town, November 17, deemed that Balandra’s real motive was to ascertain Daguil and his family’s whereabouts for members of the 27th IBPA to strike.
The mission concluded that Balandra might have informed the military of Daguil’s possible presence in their fayahlob (farm hut).
Arminda (not her real name), a close relative, said Balandra was trying to convince Daguil, the head of the Capion family, to surrender, often bringing alcohol beverages that Balandra and Daguil drank in an adjacent hut. Balandra was also reported to have given Juvy P7,500 ($178) for a potato-growing contract project initiated by SMI-Xtrata as a community relations initiative with the tribe.
“It appears that SMI-Xstrata’s security consultant has knowledge of the military’s plan to wipe out the Capion family, and has informed the military of Daguil’s presence in the area,” Ryan Lariba, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Socksargen and head of the documentation team of the mission, said.
Balandra has not been seen in the area since the massacre.
Balandra’s role in the eventual massacre is part of a series of moves that included branding Daguil as a bandit and offering as much as P300,000 ($7,100) reward for his capture.
Remy (not her real name), another witness, told members of the mission that she was told by soldiers of the 27th IBPA that Daguil’s family would be ‘wiped out’ a few weeks before the massacre.
Kiblawan mayor Marivic Diamante was on record to be among the first who called Daguil a bandit and offered the reward money for his capture or killing.
Mayor Diamante also told the tribes people to follow military orders to stay in their respective subvillages and stop visiting their outlying farms because of the military’s presence and she could no longer assure them of their safety.
In an interview with ABS-CBN, Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas also reportedly issued the same warnings against Daguil.
After the bounty has been placed for Daguil’ capture, Remy said, Lt. Dante Jimenez, commander of the bravo company of the 27th IBPA, boasted that Daguil’s capture or death was certain in three months. Such remark was oft repeated by Jimenez, Remy said, whenever he and his men would patrol the subvillages affected by SMI-Xstrata mining operations.
Jimenez was ground commander of the team that peppered the Capion’s house with bullets that fateful day of October 18.
“The bounty which translates into a shoot-to-kill order, the three-month deadline, and the branding of Daguil as a bandit made him and his entire family an open target,” Lariba said.
‘Not a bandit’
For a fulong, a well-respected B’laan clan elder, however, Daguil is not a bandit.
The elder admitted to the mission that it was their tribal council that decided to wage pangayaw or traditional tribal war against SMI-Xtrata in 2010.
The Capions initially supported SMI-Xtrata, including Daguil, who was employed by the mining company as a community relations staff for three years starting 2005. Daguil and Balandra first met as co-employees at the mining company.
The clan had a falling-out with the company when it ordered the Capions to leave their land, which SMI-Xstrata wanted to buy at a company-determined price.
The military, whom the Blaans believe to be in cahoots with SMI, also prevented community members from visiting surrounding forests, their traditional hunting and gathering grounds.
The Capions also refused the company’s proposed relocation site of Atmorok subvillage, which was even farther from Kimlawis village than Alyong subvillage where they live.
The fulong also said the tribe are at odds with Atmorok’s original inhabitants and are unwelcome to the area.
Juvy, meanwhile, joined Kasasatu Di Aktamang Idad Labi Manue Di Gtagak Akana Aktaga De Di’dad Ml’wein (Kalgad) or the Unity for the Defense of Indigenous Peoples and Ancestral Domain Against Mining, a people’s organization opposing SMI-Xstrata.
The pangayaw has since claimed the lives of several police officers and para-military forces tasked to guard SMI-Xstrata’s gold and copper mining activities. It has also confiscated firearms from the company guards.
But the Capions said they are just following and enforcing their customary laws against violators of their ancestral domain.
“When it comes to our land, our laws, and not of outsiders, apply,” the fulong said.
The mission also concluded that Juvy and her sons were massacred and were not merely caught in crossfire during an encounter as claimed by the 27th IBPA.
Arminda told the group she rushed to Daguil’s falahyob, after hearing bursts of gunfire from the location of the farm hut a few minutes after 6 a.m. of October 18.
When she arrived at the scene, which was one and a half kilometer from where she came from, she saw 14 soldiers with assault rifles still trained against the victims.
Aside from the dead victims, two other minors survived the attack. July (not her real name), five years old, and Juvy’s niece, Rosanna, (not her real name), 13 years old and, were also in the hut.
Toyang (not her real name), another witness and relative, overheard a soldier named Murillo and Lt. Jimenez saying both girls should also be killed to leave no witnesses.
Toyang claimed that soldiers pointed their guns at the two minors and Arminda.
The P7,500 Balandra was said to have given Juvy was also taken by the soldiers, Arminda added.
Witness Toyang also saw the soldiers cleaning the bloodied hut with water and rags after the shooting.
Toyang also protested the soldiers’ removal of the bodies, saying it must be the relatives who should recover them.
The soldiers ignored her and exposed the bodies in the sun, she added.
Toyang was also told by one of the soldiers that they would only allow the relatives to claim the remains of the victims when Daguil surrenders.
The soldiers prevented other community members who came to the scene hours after the incident to recover the bodies.
The soldiers, police and the para-military brought the victim’s remains inside Juvy’s house at Biaao subvillage at about 3 p.m. of the same day. This angered the community even more as bringing human remains inside B’laan houses are uncustomary.
“Results of our direct investigation at the site disprove the military’s claim that there was an encounter. Daguil was clearly absent and no one could have fired at the soldiers,” Promotion of Church People’s Response secretary general Nardy Sabino said.
The fayahlob stands in the middle of a flat farmland newly furrowed for corn planting.
Sabino also rues the military’s statement that the incident was a mere violation of rules of engagement.
“The victims were unarmed and helpless, as most of them were still sleeping. It was only the elder son who was awake and in school uniform, sipping coffee outside the hut and who can be clearly seen and identified by the soldiers and yet they still fired at Jordan,” Sabino said.
The 27th IBPA has been pulled out from the village due to alleged violations in the rules of engagement. No further disciplinary action has been taken.
The 27th IBPA has since been replaced by the 39th IBPA, a sister unit under the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. Aside from taking over the former’s “Pioneering Camp” in the barangay, the latter also has detachments in seven of the village’s 13 sitios. Tribes people have been demanding the immediate pullout of all military units from their areas.