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Cat out of the bag on mining company funding of army

KORONADAL (Mabuhay) : “Now the cat is out of the bag. This explains why the army and the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units are so obsessed with eliminating opposition to mining, because they will lose millions of pesos if SMI-Xtrata (Sagittarius Mines Inc.) operations stop,” congress member, Neri Colmenares, said after attending a February 21 hearing conducted by the National Cultural Communities Committee in Koronadal, chaired by congress member, Teddy Baguilat.

The hearing was convened as part of an investigation into the murder of 27-year-old Juvy Capion and two of her children on October 18 last year in Tampakan.

Her house was strafed by members of the 27th Infantry Battalion at 6.00am, leaving the bullet-riddeled body of her son, John, lying next to his dead mother and the lifeless three-month-old baby in her womb, on the bed where they had been sleeping.

The military attack also left her 13-year-old son, Jordan, dead, with a coffee mug in his hand and the right side of his face missing. Her youngest child, Vicky, survived and is being cared for at an undisclosed location.

The probable target of the attack was Juvy’s husband, Daguil, a tribal leader, who with his wife, had been active in protecting indigenous land from the multinational mining companies, which they claimed are operating illegally in the area (Mabuhay, 11 November 2012).

During the hearing in Koronadal, a lieutenant colonel, Shalimar Imperial, admitted that a retired army officer called Dan Balandra is also on the payroll of SMI-Xtrata.

Balandra is believed to have met Daguil Capion on three successive days prior to the murder of his wife and children.

All 13 soldiers involved in the shootings are now facing court martial hearings.

A joint press release from MindaNews, Reuters and Philippine Star dated February 24 says that the mayor of Kiblawan, Marivic Diamante, disclosed that SMI is actually providing funds for the allowance and operations of the military and paramilitary groups in Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbia, where the company has mining concessions.

Diamante explained in her testimony that a memorandum of agreement was signed in July 2006 by the three local governments.

She added that the memorandum made it possible to deploy 120 Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit personnel and also enabled the creation of the military-led Task Force KITACO.

Asian correspondent, Edwin Espejo, reported that a representative from Bayan Muna told the hearing in Koronadal that the commander of the 1002nd Brigade, Marcos Flores, admitted that 60 members of the civilian brigade are receiving 2,500 pesos ($485) each per month on top of a gasoline and other allowances.

However, the mayor, Diamante, revealed that the all up cost amounted to over 850,000 pesos ($164,900) each month

The Task Force has been implicated in the murder of other leaders of the B’laan indigenous people and anti-mining advocates in the area, and Colmenares said that he believes that in the face of the evidence, SMI-Xtrata is essentially a conspirator in the murder of Capion and her children.

Colmenares added that in light of the revelations of the hearing, he would look into possible violations by the mining company of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

He said, “The first issue is whether SMI’s funding of the army is legal or constitutes a form of bribery of public officials… and that local civilian units should not receive any money from SMI.”

However, the company maintains that the civilian units are funded through the community peace and security programmes run by the municipalities of Tampakan and Kiblawan and that it forbids its staff from engaging in bribery.

Judy Pasimio, from Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights, reported, “And we need not imagine how rabidly mayor Diamante and the military defend SMI, even in the face of the clear involvement of the military in the B’laan killings—Juvy Capion and her two sons; and lately, Kitari, the brother of Daguil Capion.”

Pasimo described the testimony of Diamante as scary, saying that although such involvement had always been suspected, the brazen admission of the mayor about the funding from the mining company payments is callous, given the plight of the B’laan people.

She added that the funds, which are supposed to be used for the implementation of SMI’s community-based peace and security plan, are given direct to local government units for dispersal.

Baguilat was critical of Diamante for immediately putting a 300,000 peso bounty on the head of Daguil Capion when the military attack failed to kill him.

He said that it is wrong to demonise indigenous people as bandits for defending their  ancestral lands.

A statement released by the Social Action Centre Marbel, says, “Instead of the military defending the people, it defends and protects foreign investments and kills community members. The government is killing its own people, because of this mining problem.”

He adds that despite this, the company still receives support from the highest levels of government in the country, as despite the murders, it still procured an Environmental Compliance Certificate.

Daniel Arias, from Alyansa Tigil Mina (Alliance Against Mining), said, “SMI can no longer deny that those killings are rooted in the presence of the mining project and this was confirmed by the testimony of mayor Diamante and the military.”

A lawyer, Macki Maderazon, from the Philippine Misereor Partnerships Inc. Anti-Mining Advocacy, said, “This is not in accord with the duty of the government to protect the human rights of the people against corporate abuse in accordance with the United Nations Framework and Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights, to which our government is a signatory.”

The Australian-Philippine joint mining venture says it will invest US$5.6 billion ($43.37 billion) in the gold-and-copper-rich area.

Maderazon adds that the issuing of a mining certificate by the administration of Noynoy Aquino makes its position clear. “So the bias is clear. It is tragic,” he concludes.