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Call off your dogs a priest tells president

MANILA (Agencies) : Father Joy Peliño, from Marbel in Mindanao, is asking for an immediate investigation into the deaths of several tribal people, whom local people believe were shot and killed by the military in South Cotabato.

The priest, from the Social Action Centre of Marbel, is demanding government intervention and a full investigation by the Commission on Human Rights.

Father Peliño, told CBCP News, “This is too much already for the community, which is why we are calling on the president to command the government agencies to investigate and resolve this situation.”

His call comes after an alleged encounter between people from a tribal community in Tampakan and the military.

The Social Action Centre says in a report that on January 29, Kitari, a member of the B’laan Tribal group, was going to Sitio Bong Mal when he saw military men identified as members of the Task Force Kitaco.

Fearing for the safety of his family, he ran back to his home in Nakultana and told his wife and children to leave and stay at relatives’ homes.

But later that day, Kitari was shot twice. He was brought to a hospital in Koronadal City, where he underwent an operation for gunshot wounds, but was declared dead after two hours.

On January 30, another shoot-out happened in Bong Mal, in which a relative of Daguil Capion, a tribal defence warrior who had been opposing the entry of mining companies into their ancestral domain, was wounded.

“We are aware that there is an increasing deployment of military forces in the area, but we believe that there is no concrete reason for them being there other than looking after the mining area, thereby, threatening the rights of the indigenous communities living there,” Father Peliño explained.

He believes the presence of military forces and militias in the area alarms the communities and pushes them to fight, because of fear of the threat made to their ancestral lands.

In a dialogue with Church officials, representatives from the Bong Mal communities, police and military officials on February 3, the military assured the communities that they could go back safely to their homes.

The military also promised the people that more restrictions would be put on Task Force Kitaco and that a court martial would proceed within two weeks.

Kitaco is a special task force created under the army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade, which has been assigned to oversee secure areas where the SMI-Xstrata’s mining project operates.

The chairperson of the Committee on National Cultural Communities of the House of Representatives, Teddy Brawner Baguilat, has scheduled a congressional hearing to be held in General Santos on human rights and extrajudicial murders with the community leaders themselves.

He called the killings a violation of human rights.

“In our planned Congressional Inquiry this coming February 21, my colleagues in Congress and I will study the different cases and put forward concrete actions to the government offices concerned,” Baguilat said.

Father Peliño was even stronger, saying, “We strongly call on PNoy (Noynoy Aquino) to carefully examine whose interest is being promoted and protected here, but with a clear bias to the least, especially of the indigenous communities, not just the foreign investment. We also demand the pull out of military deployment in the area or, at the minimum, order the cessation of all military activities and violence in the areas affected by the Tampakan mining project. We ask for fundamental rights as guaranteed by the constitution for self-determination and the right to defend their ancestral land.”