Blaan chief wants tribesmen free to hunt again

Nov. 21, 2012

Gok said his tribe has been prevented from hunting the forests since the 27th IB was assigned in their area two years ago.

Davao Today

KIBLAWAN, Davao del Sur, Philippines — The village chief of an indigenous Blaan tribe in Davao del Sur wants his people to hunt, gather goods from the forests and rivers and to attend to their farms without fear.

Malit Gok, Blaan village chief of Sitio Alyong, Kimlawis village, Kiblawan town, Davao del Sur said they dread the Philippine Army’s 27thinfantry battalion (IB) who warned them from roaming in the forest lest they be branded as communist guerrillas.

The villagers have a reason to be fearful; just last October 17, their relative Juvy Capion and her two young sons were shot and killed by the same army unit.

Gok said his tribe has been prevented from hunting the forests since the 27th IB was assigned in their area two years ago.

“Those caught going into the forest are considered members of the NPA (New People’s Army),” said the chieftain in the vernacular.  He recounted that a tribesman who tried to gather food from the river, was detained.

Though the man was later released, members of the tribe fared suffering the same fate.  The Blaan chief said that since then, they have been following an eight-in-the-morning-to-four-in-the-afternoon schedule when going to their farms.

Gok said that if a Blaan woman gives birth, it is their tribe’s practice to feed her with the meat from a wild boar caught from a hunt and gather medicinal herbs from the forests to aid in her recovery; these they cannot do anymore for fear of being persecuted.

Elderly Blaan woman Gimban Sagindi said that what happened to Juvy made them realize that even women are not spared from being killed.

Juvy was an anti-mining advocate and community leader.  Her two sons who were murdered with her were only eight years old (John Mark) and 14 years old (Jordan).

Military officials claim that their men were in pursuit of Juvy’s husband Daguil Capion, leader of a Blaan group who had resorted to an armed resistance against the mining operations of the mining firm Xstrata-SMI (Sagittarius Mines, Inc).

Two witnesses later belied the allegations of the military saying that there was no exchange of gunfire.  One witness also clarified earlier reports attributed to her that Daguil was the one who fired the first shot.  What she said was that “the house of Daguil was the first one attacked.”

Kids in fear

“All of the kids fear the military,” said Rius Valle, advocacy officer of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC).  “They define being a bandit as military,” Valle said.  “The children said that if you wear a military uniform, you are a bandit,” he added.

Valle’s group handled the psycho-social therapy activity of the National Peace and Solidarity Mission of the Justice for Capion Family, Justice for All network.

The network — composed of church groups, people’s organizations, environment groups, anti-mining advocates, human rights groups and children’s rights advocates –was in the Blaan community of Bong Mal to conduct relief operations, psycho-social activities and do their own investigation on the murder of the members of the Capion family or what is now known as the ‘Tampakan Massacre.’

Valle said they asked their questions repeatedly to make sure that the children understood them but they (the children) were consistent in their answers.  Valle said the Blaan children believe that the military is responsible for killing their kin because of their resistance against mining activities.

Valle said that the atrocities in the community have a special effect on the children.  That is the reason why their group is recommending that the authorities do a much broader and deeper investigation of these cases.

John Mark and Jordan were playmates of the children whom that CRC had in their group.  Juvy’s five-year-old daughter Vicky and niece Rissa were also wounded and were witnesses to the murder.  Reports say that Jordan, during the attack, was already in school uniform and was sipping coffee while seated on the stump of a coconut tree.

Mining issues

Gok said that officials of SMI have not approached him but company representatives have been to the community to buy lands at their own terms.  He added that fully-armed military personnel usually come first before mining personnel or officials.

Rita Dialang, Daguil’s sister, said that since the killing of members of the Capion family, more Blaans have become staunch in their anti-mining stance.

“Those who are pro-mining and having second thoughts about it are now against mining,” Dialang said.

The involvement of the slain Capion family traces back to Daguil himself as he was part of the mining company in the year 2005.  Daguil acted as the community relations officer of the company.

Capion’s kin said Daguil owns the lot where the base camp of the mining firm is situated.  Dialang said the company did not pay his brother for the use of the lot because “they said they already gave him a job.”

Capion left the company because of the mining operations have affected their livelihood and the environment.  (John Rizle Salugumba/

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