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By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY – Militant groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Socsksargen held an indignation rally at the gates of the Glencore-Xstrata-SMI Office in General Santos City Monday to denounce the killing of Fulong (Tribal Chieftain) Anting Freay, 60 and his son 16-year old Victor on August 23.

The group burned an effigy of a figure carrying a scythe, tagging X-Strata SMI mining, the AFP’s 39th Infantry Battalion and Task Force Kitaco (Kiblawan, Tampakan, Columbio) as “agents of death” in the killing of Freay.  Kitaco was a special task force created under the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade to oversee and secure the areas covering SMI-Xstrata’s mining project.

In an earlier statement from Karapatan Socsksargen, Freay’s wife, Kiit, who survived the killing early dawn at their house in Sitio Bulol, Barangay Kimlawis, Kiblawan town, Davao del Sur, pinned the murders on Task Force Kitaco.

Karapatan said “Nagsaba ang mga iro mao mao giabli ni Anting ang purtahan ug kalit lang gipaulanan og bala ang biktima ug ang ilang balay mga 3 metros ang gilay-on sa mga military sa tugkaran sa ilang balay (Their dog was barking hard so Anting went out to inspect but he was shot while their house was ridden with bullets. The soldiers were just three meters away from their house).”

“Gisusi dayon kini ni Kiit ug pag-abre niya sa pultahan gipusil siya ug hapit siya naigo samtang nakita niya si Anting naligo sa kaugalingong dugo (Kiit immediately went out to investigate but when she opened the door, she was also shot. She then saw Anting already bathed in blood),” the statement further said.

Kiit ran off the house carrying their two children, while her son Victor ran back to the house to get back to his father, but Victor was shot too, 18 times.

The Freays of the Freay-Capion clan were known oppositors to the SMI mining operations. Freay’s son Eking Freay survived while his son-in-law Sonnny Boy Planda perished in an ambush last June 28 purportedly staged by alleged members of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) under Task Force KITACO.

October last year, 27-year old Blaan Juvy Capion and her two sons Jordan, 13, and John, 8, were strafed to death by alleged military troops. Early this year in January, another two B’laan tribe members, Kitari and Diyo Capion were also killed by alleged members of Task Force Kitaco.

BAYAN Socsksargen spokesperson Ryan Lariba slammed SMI which was “downsizing other components of its operation, but not the military component.”

“The new approach (that) the company is talking about – is more military deployment in the mine site, more human rights violations, more killings and massacres of anti-mining, minors and innocent civilians,” Lariba said.

X-Strata SMI is the largest mining investor in the country with US$5.9 billion investment in Tampakan, South Cotabato– site of the largest underdeveloped copper and gold deposits in Southeast Asia.   In its press release last August 12,  SMI Executive Vice-President, Justin Hillier, said SMI will be “taking a new approach” and “will reduce current activity levels and expenditure on the Project.

“(R)egrettably this reduced activity and expenditure will result in staff downsizing and a reduction in the utilization of contractors,” according to the press release.

Some 4,000 Blaan Lumads are said to be displaced with SMI mining operations.

The latest violence in the troubled SMI area earned criticism from Fr. Joel Tabora SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University who wrote in his blog that the “the murder of other-thinking civilians that drives people to believe that the military operates not for the defense of the Filipino people but for the defense of foreign interests.”

Tabora further said the Freay’s murder was “a planned and pre-meditated military operation against a leader of an indigenous people who had dared to oppose the operations of foreign mining operations in their ancestral domain.”

He would not believe the military’s statement that the killings were a result of an “encounter” between the military and armed Blaans, saying that based on a fact finding mission of the Social Action Council of the Diocese of Marbel, “more than 100 empty shells (were found) near Anting Freay’s house alone.”

“This contradicts military allegations that the killings were result of an encounter,” he pointed out.

The Armed Forces’ 1002nd Infantry Brigade which operates in the Southern part of Mindanao claimed in their statement that “lawless armed men identified only in their aliases as Anting Peayay and Victor” were killed in “pursuit operations” by Task Force KITACO adding that “two rifles were also recovered in their possession.”

“While billion-peso scams cause outrage, what can replace the life of a tribal elder murdered by the military?” Tabora asked.

For its part, Jaybee Garganera, national coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina in an earlier statement last July said, “We condemn the killings and the attack to indigenous communities who have opposed mining in their area. There is more than enough evidence to show that the presence of paramilitary groups there is detrimental to the communities, especially when we know that Task Force KITACO is paid for by the mining company opposed by the people.”(John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)

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