Philippines: An Encounter - The Killing Of Three B'laan Tribal People

Judy A. Pasimio, 2012


LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)

Imagine this.

It was past 6:00 in the morning. The sun has risen, and nature was already awake. And so were Daguil and Jordan Capion. They were having coffee just outside their small hut of a farmhouse in Sitio Fayahlob, Barangay Datal Alion, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur. It would have been a good Nescafe commercial scene – father and son, having a moment with their cups of hot coffee in a crisp, October morning. What would they be talking about – plans for the farm, or plans for the 13-year old son? Daguil could have been telling Jordan that as the eldest son, he should be responsible enough to take care of his pregnant mother, and his two younger siblings. Or, Daguil was probably just sipping his coffee in silence with Jordan. Inside, Juvy and her children were still fast asleep.

And then the silence, the father-son bonding, the talk over coffee, the sleep of the mother and children – all of these – were broken by a burst of gun fire spraying through the nipa hut. These gunshots were heard from the house of Aileen Capion, a relative, who immediately ran, along with another woman, to check what was happening. On a normal day, her house would have been a good 30-minute walk from Daguil’s. That day was far from normal. In the fact sheet drawn up by the Task Force Detainees, based on Aileen’s account, when she reached the area of the farmhouse, she saw that Daguil’s daughter Vicky, and Ressa, a relative, were able to run to a neighbor’s house. Ressa, 11-years old, was covering Vicky, from the military men who were poking guns at them. Vicky, 4 years old, was bleeding as her right ear was shot. Aileen shouted at the military “ayaw ninyo unsaa ang mga bata, akoa na ng mga bata” (Don’t harm the children, I will take custody of the children), but the soldiers replied “mas maayo nga tiwason ang mga bata para wala’y witness” (Better to finish off the children, so that there will be no witnesses).
Juvy-and-childrenJuvy Capion in the middle with arms crossed, and her son John on her right. Photo by LRC-KSK.
Aileen heard Juvy shouting “tama na ayaw namo sige ug pabuto kay naigo nako” (Please stop firing your guns because I’m already wounded). To which, the military responded with another round of strafing of the house. Then there was silence. A few moments after, Aileen saw Juvy, with a gunshot wound on her chest, her left leg broken by gunshots. John, 8 years old, who was sleeping at the right side of his mother, had a gunshot wound at the right side of his head, which exploded at his right ear.

A few meters away from the house, Jordan was lying on the ground face down. Blood was coming out of the gunshot wound at the back of his head.

Daguil was nowhere to be found. He knew he could not stay long with his family, but undoubtedly, he did not know he would leave his family in that horrible state. Daguil was being hunted down by the military for his militant stand against the Tampakan Project of the SMI mining in their ancestral domain for more than a year now.

Juvy, 27 years old, was a member of Kalgad, a Lumad organization opposed to large-scale mining in their ancestral domain. When the military started branding Daguil as bandit and went after him, it was Juvy who stepped up and continued the campaign against SMI, and the defense of their domain.

This is what Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, the unit that has jurisdiction over Kiblawan and Tampakan, called a “legitimate encounter”.

Imagine that.

Aileen further recounted that when she first arrived in the scene, there were 13 soldiers near the house, and she saw the nameplate of the team leader of the group, named 1LT. Dante Jimenez. Jimenez is the Commanding Officer of Bravo Company under the command of the Lt. Colonel Noel Alexis Bravo, 27th Battalion Commander. As per the news report (PDI, 10-19-12), Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo said law enforcers went to Barangay Kimlawis after receiving a tip that Daguil Capion was in the area. He said that his men were first fired upon. And that “the lawmen returned fire.”

The farmhouse was washed and cleaned, with the clothes of the family thrown outside, when Aileen came back with the police investigators. The bodies of Juvy, Jordan and John were kept in military custody for hours, before they were brought home in Datal Biao at 2:00 pm.

According to Paniza, 9 soldiers were relieved, including Lt. Jimenez because of “operational lapses” – a military term for the massacre of the Capion family - Juvy, Jordan and John. A military probe on the incident is ongoing.

Imagine this – Daguil, wounded, in hiding. He may not have been killed, but he must be dying inside, knowing his pregnant wife and his sons have been brutally killed. As a father, he must be dead worried about Vicky, and who would be taking care of her. As a leader, he must be terribly concerned about the volatile situation of his B’laan community.

As a response to what happened in her municipality, and her constituents, Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante announced that the hunt for Daguil “has been intensified.” She further said that a bounty on his head is being offered at P300,000. No statement from Mayor Diamante on the “operational lapses” of the military; no expression of concern for the condition of Vicky. Instead, she raises the tension further by warning of “pangayaw”, a declaration of tribal war that she predicts would ensue after the killings. “We are now preparing for this,” Diamante said.

Imagine that.

What is unimaginable is this – that Col. Bravo, Jimenez and Paniza, supposedly under a new Commander-in-chief, can still have the gall to spin this obvious deadly web of lies and expect that people will still believe, and accept, that children can be dismissed as collateral damage; that a massacre of a family can be mere operational lapses; that the hunting down of women and men leaders of communities defending their territories against mining are military operations against rebels. This was supposed to be part of the terrible history under the past administrations, not under the Aquino administration, which prides itself of crafting a new peace agenda, particularly in Mindanao.

Still unimaginable is that in just a month, three indigenous children have already been killed, in the name of their fathers - in Sept. 4, Jordan Manda, 11 years old have been killed in an ambush, along with Subanen Timuay Lucenio Manda, a staunch defender of their ancestral domains, in mine-infested Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur.

Robina Poblador, a Blaan woman active in the campaign against SMI mining, said that what happened was unacceptable. As a mother, she grieves, for the death of Jordan and John. As a B’laan, she grieves for Juvy, who was an active defender of their rights. Robina calls for the withdrawal of SMI mining company from their province, which presence has caused the escalation of violence among the B’laan communities. “SMI has caused deaths among the B’laans. It has to leave. Now.”

Of course, Mayor Diamante has a different, perverse reading of the situation, “I appeal to the people to please cooperate with us in capturing (Daguil) so we could bring back peace and order to this town.” (PDI/10.21.12)

Unimaginable.



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