More than action, we need political will
The Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, Inc. (CLRD) condemns in strongest term the massacre of members of the B’laan tribe on 18 October 2012 in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur. The killing was beyond inhumane, a violation not only of the human rights of the victims but is also perceived as an attack to the B’laan tribe.
Uphold Ancestral Property Rights
The massacre, based on different probes, independent or official investigation by the government, was a consequence of the dispute between the B’laan tribe and Sagitarrius Mines, Inc. (SMI)-Xstrata over the ancestral properties of the B’laan tribe in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, one of the areas to be explored by the latter in its proposed Tampakan Project. The Tampakan Project sprang from the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) between SMI and the Philippine Government for the mining and exploration of copper-gold deposits covering an area of approximately 10,000 hectares and is located between the towns of Tampakan, South Cotabato and Kiblawan, Davao del Sur in southern Mindanao.
DaguilCapion, the fulong (tribal leader) of the B’laan tribe along with the rest of his clan openly opposed such intrusion to their property by SMI which eventually led to the declaration of panggyaw or traditional tribal war against the latter in 2010. Meanwhile, JuvyCapion, one of the victims and wife of Daguil, joined Kasasatu Di AktamangIdadLabiManue Di GtagakAkanaAktaga De Di’dadMl’wein (Kalgad) or the Unity for the Defense of Indigenous Peoples and Ancestral Domain Against Mining, a people’s organization opposing SMI-Xstrata.
If and when the massacre is actually connected to aforesaid dispute, the Government shall stand firm and uphold the ancestral property rights of the B’lann tribe, a homogenous group protected under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 (IPRA). The IPRA Law grants certain preferential rights to these Indigenous Peoples or IPs their ancestral domains and all resources found therein, hence, no mineral agreement shall be approved unless there is a prior certification from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that the area does not overlap any ancestral domain or that the prior free and informed written consent has been obtained from the IPs concerned. And in case of conflict, Section 65 of the same law mandates thatwhen disputes involveIPs, customary laws and practices shall be used to resolve the dispute thereby affirming the B’laan council’s declaration of panggyaw.
The lack of consent of the B’laan prevented SMI to proceed with its project hence, it allegedly resorted to the dirty tactics of corporate manipulation such as the tracing of the whereabouts of Daguil and commissioning the military, particularly 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, to strike out against Daguil and his family. SMI which was allegedly to be in cahoots with the military earlier have Daguil declared a bandit, a member of the belligerent New Peoples Army (NPA) by several local officials namely Kiblawan Mayor Marivic Diamante and Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas, both of whom offered a bounty for the capture of Daguil which was taken as a shoot to kill order.
Assuming that Daguil is indeed a bandit or a belligerent, there are still processes to be followed for his arrest or captivity. The members of the military, among others, should be the first to know that a shoot to kill order had long been declared unconstitutional since it violates one’s right to due process of law.
Killing the Innocent
Lt. Col. Alexis Bravo, 27th IB commander, claimed that the victims of the massacre were killed and was a mere collateral damage in an encounter between the military and alleged NPA rebels led by Daguil. Contrary to the forgoing statement, witnesses proved that there was no such encounter as there were no exchanges of gunfire heard by the residents in the area where the massacre was committed. It was also confirmed that Daguil was never close in the area during the killings. The testimonies of the witnesses, including the two children survivors, and pieces of evidence gathered by the police proved that the victims were unarmed, helpless and were even sleeping during the firing.
Even if assuming that Daguil was there, the military should have observed due diligence not to harm any innocent person, not to mention, there were children, and a pregnant woman who were incapable of defending themselves against armed military men.
Military Abuse and Circumvention
Among the justifications given by the 27th IBPA is that they were there to serve the warrant of arrest of Daguil. This alone is no justification because members of the military have no authority to serve any warrant of arrest. Even if said act is valid or legal why do they have to clean up the scene of the crime before the police investigators arrived, allegedly tampered the evidence, and took custody of the remains of the victims as if they were held hostage in exchange of the surrender of Daguil. These acts were clear indications of patent violations of our laws and the Constitution as well as blatant human rights violations.
Various independent investigation of the said brutal massacre yielded the findings that the crime was actually premeditated which are very alarming. These reports should have prompted the government to come up with an official fact finding investigation in order to hold the perpetrators accountable if probable cause is found to believe that there was really a crime committed. Although the military officers involved in the operation were already recalled and relieved and are now facing court martial, the government must take a credible step to assure not only the families of the victims but as well as the civil society and the whole citizenry as a whole that they will conduct an impartial investigation on the matter and avoid any doubt for a possible whitewash or cover up.
We are a society bound by law, international and municipal and adherence to these warrant that it should be all-encompassing followed by everyone and implemented over everybody including the military. The military may place as a defense or alibi that the act done is in the fulfilment of a duty or in the lawful exercise of an office or in obedience to an order issued by a superior for some lawful purpose but in no means can it be considered as such if it was actually done to please a high and able-paying corporation working with the government.
As human rights defenders and children’s rights advocates, we are urging the government, from His Excellency Benigno Aquino 111, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces of the Philippines, the Department of Justice, the Congress of the Philippines, the Commission on Human Rights and other Civil Society groups to take an active participation in the independent, impartial and credible investigation of said the incident, and that the rule of law be upheld.
Apart from the investigation, the Government should recall the military troops deployed in the area to avoid further possible abuses or violations and to appease the tribal groups residing thereat. A review of the corporate social responsibility of SMI is also highly recommended.
Specifically, we call on the Commission on Human Rights to ensure the compensation and/or financial assistance to the families of the victims and that the necessary rehabilitation for the survivors is made available to them.
To our fellow HR defenders, we should keep our guards on and remain on the qui vive to ensure that human rights prevail and justice serve.
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