29 October 2012

Cover-up on Tampakan Massacre?

The Bamboo Hut in the Tampakan Massacre
The 27th Infantry Battalion assigned in Sitio Datal-Alyong of Kimlawis village in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur claimed that Juvy Capion and her sons died during a clash with a band of armed tribesmen led by Juvy's husband, Daguil. Daguil, leader of the B'laan tribesmen, took up arms to oppose the mining project of Sagittarius Mines in the area.

Anybody with a sane mind would consider this explanation as one of the most flimsy excuses that a guilty conscience can concoct when pressured by several stakeholders and media groups. It raises a lot of questions and cast doubts on the military's strategy in dealing with armed groups when innocent civilians are present and on their commitment to equally protect the citizens of this country, whether they belong to a B'laan tribe or to a mining company.

If there was really an armed confrontation, why would the government forces under the command Lieutenant Dante Jimenez and his superior, Lieutenant Colonel Alexis Noel Bravo, 27th Infantry Battalion commander, fire on a bamboo hut where the victims, including 8-year old John Mark and 13-year old Jordan, 13, are resting?

If the military unit was really fired upon by Daguil and his group, is it the new standard operating procedure (SOP) to fire back at the family members of the perpetrators even if most of them are minors and children?

Juvy's daughters, Becky, 4, who was grazed by a bullet on her left ear and Ressa Piang, 10, were the lone survivors of the alleged 'encounter.' They are currently staying with their grandmother, Diya Capion, and aunts Sabelin and Rosita.

It was reported by Minda News early this week that the survivors and their guardians were supposed to join Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez for a press conferences, but were prevented by a supported of Saggitarius Mines Inc (SMI).

Josephine Malid, who works for a SMI-supported Tribal Foundation, allegedly intercepted the survivors in Barangay Danlag in Tampakan, South Cotabato and brought them to the Tampakan municipal social welfare office. But they were turned away as there was no prior coordination, according to Rene Pamplona of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel.

The Minda News also reported that Major Joel Wayagwag, head of the Army's Task Force Kitaco, then allegedly told Malid to bring the children and their companions to Kiblawan for medical attention.

In a press conference in Davao City last 22 October 2012, Erita Capion-Dialang, Juvy's sister-in-law said that when soldiers arrived in Sitio Datal-Alyong, John and his mother were still sleeping inside their hut while Jordan was having coffee.

Dialang said that when her sister, Melanie, arrived at the hut to save Becky and Ressa, she heard the military said: "Tiwasi na lang ng mga bata" (kill the other children too).

Melanie, however, pleaded to spare the children, she added.

John B. Arnaldo, SMI spokesperson, said the mining company "respects the right of all concerned stakeholders to express their views and position on the Tampakan project."