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MANILA, Philippines -- The deaths of B’laan Juvy Capion and her sons Pop, 13, and John, 8, has outraged church leaders, human rights groups, environmentalists and at least one congressman, who say the incident signals a tendency by government and its security forces to defend mining companies against the interests of indigenous people.
The three died in in Purok Uno, Sitio Alyong, Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur in what the military claims was a clash with tribesmen led by Capion’s husband Daguil, who, with his brothers Kitara and Batas, have declared a pangayaw, a traditional war of justice or retribution, against the entry of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mining Inc. into the B’laan’s ancestral domain.
But the military has portrayed Capion as a “bandit” who has allegedly targeted the mining firm for its refusal to give in to an unspecified demand, although it has relieved Lieutenant Colonel Alexis Bravo, commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion, and eight of his men, including a company commander, over the incident.
Environmental and human rights groups have taken to calling the incident a “massacre” and say what happened was not an encounter but a raid on Capion’s house, and challenged the government to mount an investigation and prosecute those responsible for the deaths of Juvy and her children.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said Juvy was a member of Kalgad, a B’laan organization that opposed the entry of Sagittarius.
Tony Abuso of the national secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples, said: “We want the perpetrators investigated and justice be given to Daguil and all lumad of Mindanao who now fear for their lives -- because of the position they take against mining."
Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat, an Ifugao who chairs the House Committee on Cultural Communities, called on government “to use all its resources and exhaust all possible means to bring justice to my B’laan indigenous brothers and sisters.”
He said the military should be “defenders of the oppressed, especially the IPs, and not protect the interests of a mining company.”
Baguilat will open a congressional inquiry into the state of the IPs and the continued violence within their ancestral domains, and may consider asking the United Nations to send special rapporteurs to the country.
Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, noted that the killings happened just after the government signed a framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Alyansa Tigil Mina said even if a clash occurred, as Bravo claimed, “there must have been a failure of intelligence” because civilians were killed.