Philippines: Indigenous Peoples group slams DOJ dismissal on ‘Capion massacre’
Only days before the first anniversary of the murders of 27-year-old Juvy Capion and her two sons in an alleged armed encounter with elements of the of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Tampakan, Kimlawis, Davao del Sur, a resolution from the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Digos City, Davao del Sur received by the complainant, Sukim K. Malid, ordered the dismissal of the murder raps filed against Lt. Col. Noel Alexis Bravo, Lt. Dante Jimenez and fourteen others.
Capion, an indigenous Blaan woman and leader, and her sons were killed by multiple gunshot wounds a year ago today, in October 18, 2012, by elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. The Capion family’s slay is linked to the tribe’s protracted defiance of the SMI-Xstrata mining operations in their ancestral territories.
Indigenous peoples’ group Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) and other human rights organizations held a protest action at the gates of the Department of Justice against the dismissal of the case and to demand justice for the killing of the Capion family.
Hooded in red veils, the protesters said that the mourning for the Capions will not cease a year after their violent deaths. “The pain of their deaths inspires and gives us the strength to seek justice. In commemorating the death of the Capion family, we are not in grief. We are furious that none of their slaughterers are held accountable for their brutal crime,” Piya Macliing Malayao, spokeswoman of KAMP said. “The resolution of the DOJ to dismiss the case is a huge step backwards to achieve justice for the murder of Juvy and her children.”
The resolution submitted by Prosecutor I Jayson Banjal and approved by Provincial Prosecutor Artemio A. Tajon, described the evidences filed by the complainants as circumstantial and insufficient to establish probable cause for murder.
“The court’s decision to dismiss the charges against Lt. Bravo and the others is outrageous. How can the testimony of a survivor of the Capion massacre be insufficient and circumstantial? The other witnesses reached the crime scene only minutes after the volley of gunfire racked the Capions’ hut, and saw only members of the 27th IB in the scene, cleaning up the crime scene. Who else could have possibly killed the Capion family? ” Malayao demanded. “Even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) admits there were violations in the rules of engagement in the said incident,” Malayao added.
Last October 2012, AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza said there was a violation of the rules of engagement in the Capion case, as gunfire must be aimed only at determined targets. The 27th IB was pulled-out from the area, and thirteen members of the unit were placed under court martial for the crime.
The group also sent a letter of ‘grave concern’ to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, demanding a reinvestigation of the Capion case. The group also demanded that the prosecutors who dismissed the case to be placed under DOJ scrutiny. “Attorneys Banjal and Tajon exhibited grave abuse of their authority in dismissing the case. To dismiss the case against the military absolves the string of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings of Blaan people in Tampakan over the years. These prosecutors display incompetence and incapability to render justice for the victims,” Malayao said.
Killings in the area continued after the Capion massacre, according to KAMP. The most recent killings were that of Datu Anting Freay, 60, and his son, 16 years old, by members of Task Force Kitaco of the AFP and the 39th IBPA that replaced the 27th IB. “The Blaan people are determined to defend their rights to land and self-determination, even if it costs them their lives. It is a struggle for future generations, and the patrimony of our country. The murders of the Blaan people are a testament to the Aquino government’s non-recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples, and the improbability of justice under his term,” Malayao claimed. “The Php 182B of funds for the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is used for the guns, cannons and bullets to kill the people, while there is a very dire need for disaster preparedness and social services in the recent calamities that has struck the Filipino people.”#
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