CHR: 'Foul play' in mine site killings-A A +A
Sunday, February 17, 2013
KORONADAL CITY -- The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will file a case against soldiers involved in the operation that resulted in the death of three civilians last October in the tenement of foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines Inc.
CHR chair Loreta Ann P. Rosales disclosed this on Saturday in a dialogue here with the Diocese of Marbel, headed by Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, and several B'laan tribal members opposed to the Tampakan copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines.
Rosales revealed results of the autopsy the agency conducted on Juvy Capion, who was killed last October 18 along with her two children in what the military claimed was a legitimate operation.
"[The autopsy] determined that one bullet was fired at close range. Definitely there was a violation," she said.
The autopsy report will explain what really had happened and would counter earlier claims by the military that there was an encounter, Rosales said.
Juvy was the wife of Daguel Capion, the leader of the B'laan armed men opposing the mining project of Sagittarius Mines, which is controlled by Xstrata Copper, the world's fourth largest copper producer.
Before the death of Juvy and her two young sons, Rosales said that through an intermediary, she was able to talk to Capion, whom she described as "a man fighting with a cause."
Capion indicated he wanted to surrender, said Rosales.
The death of the three civilians, which gained widespread condemnation locally and internationally in anti-mining circles, led to suspension of a junior military officer and 12 other soldiers. They were recommended to undergo a court martial trial.
Lawyer Christina Hawtay-Jovero, CHR-Davao director, said they have not filed the case at a prosecutor's office due to insufficient testimonies.
The Social Action Center agreed to help provide the CHR with the signed affidavits of witnesses next week.
Rosales said the CHR is concerned over the worsening violence within the Tampakan project area and that steps would be undertaken by the agency to help defuse the situation.
The CHR will also conduct a national inquiry where tribal members, the military, police and other concerned government agencies, including the mining company, would be called for their take on the Tampakan project issue, which Rosales described as "obviously a very complex problem."
Dia Capion, matriarch of the Capion clan opposing the Tampakan project, blamed the heavy presence of soldiers in the area to the violence marring their community.
"We are afraid to come back in our community because of the presence of the soldiers there," said Dia, who fled their community in Bong Mal and is now under the care of the diocese.
Military officials have repeatedly said that the deployment of soldiers, which intensified in the last two years, was to protect the "people and the area from communist insurgents."
At a February 3 dialogue in Tampakan town with local Catholic leaders, military officials headed by Major General Ariel Bernardo, 10th Infantry Division chief, have vowed to redeploy the soldiers "not near but also not far from Bong Mal."
As of Saturday, however, several residents said they have seen soldiers still scouring the community.
Passionist Fr. Rey Ondap criticized the heavy deployment of soldiers in the Tampakan project area as a counterinsurgency measure.
"We have not heard of reports of encounters between the military and communist rebels there since the heavy deployment of soldiers in the last few years," he said, adding that encounters lately have been between the soldiers and the armed tribal members opposing the mining project.
For his part, Bishop Gutierrez proposed for a ceasefire.
"To stop the clashes, the military should reposition outside Bong Mal and the armed tribesmen should also stay put. SMI will not enter the area either," he said.
Rosales said the CHR will conduct a continuing consultation with the tribal members and the military to put an end to the hostilities in the mines development site.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 18, 2013.