Soldiers showed 'gross irresponsibility' - CHR

MANILA, Philippine - It's "gross irresponsibility" on the part of government troops. This was how Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Ann Rosales described the Army's attack on a B'laan family that killed a mother and her two sons on October 18.

"Dahil iyan sa katangahan o gross irresponsibility on the part of the rank-and-file soldiers who are so irresponsible na uulanan na lamang ng bala. Allegedly, soldiers ang gumawa, killing innocent lives," Rosales told Rappler in a phone interview. (It's because of stupidity or gross irresponsibility on the part of the rank-and-file soldiers who were so irresponsible to open fire. Allegedly, the soldiers did it, killing innocent lives.)

"Posisyon dapat ng sundalo, hindi mo uulanan ng bala ang isang bahay na di ka nakakatiyak kung sino nandoon (The soldiers are not supposed to spray a house with bullets if they are not sure who is inside)," Rosales said.

The CHR will be conducting its own probe on the incident.

"We will [conduct] public inquiries. And definitely, we will make a case out of this. We will put it at the national level. It's not just local," Rosales said. The CHR in Region 12 has already conducted a preliminary fact-finding mission, according to CHR lawyer Christine Jovero.

Since the October 18 killing of Juvy Capion, 28, wife of fugitive tribal leader Daguil Capion, and her sons Jordan (13 years old) and John Mark (6) in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, members of the B'laan tribe, relatives of the Capions, and human rights activists have cried foul, insisting that the incident was a massacre, not an encounter as earlier alleged by the Army.

Rosales however was cautious to call it a massacre.

"I don't want to describe it as massacre. Iyong Ampatuan massacre, iyon massacre. Madaming namatay. (Ampatuan massacre was clearly a massacre. Many died.) It's brutal killings of innocent lives," Rosales said.

Army's assurances

The military has formed a Board of Inquiry (BOI) "to conduct an investigation for possible violations of the Rules of Engagement by the operating troops."

"They (Capions) were killed, yes. But they were not massacred," Maj Jacob Thaddeus Obligado, commander of 10th Civil Military Operations Battalion of 10th Infantry Division, told Rappler.

The military initially claimed that what happened was an encounter between the group of the fugitive tribal leader Daguil and government troops. Now it's calling it a "shooting incident."

Daguil reportedly joined the revolutionary group New Peoples Army after authorities declared  him “most wanted” for leading a series of ambushes against SMI personnel.

The military describes him as a "bandit."

Military investigation

“On Sunday (October 21), the BOI together with the Kiblawan PNP (Philippine National Police), had an on-site visit where the incident happened and gathered more facts through series of interviews, photos and inspections”, Obligado said.

Members of the BOI met with Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez the next day, October 22, to update him about their investigation, assuring the church leader of impartiality in their probe.

“The army is one with the community in the pursuit of truth, in the objective that justice should be served. The 10th ID welcomes all interested investigating bodies to conduct independent investigation,” according to BOI head Col Fidel Pumihik, Inspector General of the 10th ID.

Human rights abuses

National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) chair Zenaida Brigida Pawid said "there's no doubt that human rights violations were committed."

The NCIP-Region 12 has dispatched a team from NCIP-Davao del Sur to probe the killings, Pawid added.

The team is expected to visit the B'laan community in Bongmal on Wednesday, October 24. It is tasked to submit a report to the NCIP in an en banc meeting the next day, October 25.

However, in a case briefer obtained by Rappler, NCIP Region 11 director Leonor Oralde-Quintayo noted that, "Immediate dispatch of the team is hampered by the peace and order situation in the area" and that "clearance from the concerned authorities must first be secured."

Expose brutal killings

Activist organizations Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), Katribu party-list group, and Karapatan are also planning to conduct their own probe.

"Ang gusto naming mangyari ay magkaroon ng isang fact-finding mission para makita iyong karumaldumal na pagpaslang sa pamilya Capion (We want to conduct a fact-finding mission that will expose the brutal killings of the Capion family)," Katribu secretary general Kakai Tolentino said.

The B'laan tribe has long been opposing the $6-billion Tampakan mining operations of the Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) in their ancestral land.

SMI's mining areas, located in the triboundaries of South Cotabato, Davao del Sur, and Sarangani provinces, are covered by at least 5 ancestral domain claims that belong mostly to the B'laan tribe. - Rappler.com