Soldiers face charges for tribal family's killing
This is a landmark case, say human rights groups
Sixteen soldiers are facing criminal charges related to the killing of the wife and sons of a tribal, militant protester opposed to a mine co-run by Swiss firm Xstrata in South Cotabato province.
In a landmark case, the provincial prosecutor’s office in Digos City filed charges against Lieutenant-Colonel Alexis Noel Bravo and 15 others in the 27th infantry battalion for the alleged killing of Juvy Capion, who was three months pregnant, and her two sons on October 18.
For many rights groups the case has turned into a test of how far the current administration under President Benigno Aquino is willing to go to defend human rights in the Philippines.
“The soldiers … should be punished for their barbaric act against the Capions,” said Ryan Lariba, a spokesman for the rights group Bayan, one of many organizations which has called for criminal charges.
Juvy’s husband Dagil Capion, a tribal B’laan leader who opposes Xstrata’s joint-venture Tampakan mine project over environmental concerns, is considered a bandit by the military and is being hunted down.
The Tampakan mine is the single largest foreign investment in the Philippines at $5.9 billion. Operations have been held up there, due to a provincial ban on open-pit mining.
Last month, the government awarded the project an environmental compliance certificate thereby removing one of the hurdles to gold and copper mining operations at Tampakan, which prompted more criticism from rights and environmental groups.
“The killings and other human rights violations in the area could be prevented if the company did not encroach on [tribal] B’laan ancestral lands,” said Lariba.
A public hearing conducted by the National Cultural Communities Committee of the House of Representatives on February 21 confirmed that the mine operation is giving one million pesos ($25,000) per month to the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, a paramilitary group established in the late 1980s by Aquino’s mother Corazon, also a former president.
The Philippines Commission on Human Rights has received hundreds of cases against the group over alleged torture, execution, disappearances, illegal arrests and detentions.
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