An open letter to Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III, from Erita Capion-Dialang

Dear Mr. President,

I am Erita Capion, sister of Daguil Capion, a target of your armed forces. I believe you must have already known the merciless killing of my sister-in law, Juvy Capion and her two sons, Jordan and Mark John, both minor, by 13 soldiers of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army led by Lt. Col. Dante Jimenez under the command of Col. Alexis Bravo, on October 18.  The massacre was well-covered by the media and the incident caught the attention of the international community.  Thus, I find it appalling that you have turned a blind eye despite the circumstances of the gruesome incident.  More than a month had passed, yet we have not heard from you Mr. President. Not even a few words of sympathy from you, Mr. President.  

The Lumads , together with other marginalized sectors in Mindanao,  were among those who immediately offered sympathy to you and your family  when your father was killed during the Marcos dictatorship.  We also demanded justice for the death of your father, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.  while at the same time called for the ouster of the dictatorial regime.  

Juvy Capion and her sons were killed because they opted to defend their rights over our ancestral territories and resources.  Like her husband, Dagil, Juvy only wanted to stop SMI-Xstrata from grabbing our lands, plundering our mineral wealth, and pushing us further into marginalization.  But her life, and that od her sons, were brutally taken away by the military, who have abandoned their constitutional duty to protect the people to become SMI-Xstrata’s mercenary army. 
 We are now beset with more conflicts, and our future remains uncertain as SMI-Xstrata and the military bring more violence in Bong Mal and other indigenous communities within the Tampakan Copper-Gold project area.  All those who oppose the mining project are hunted down,  and we are afraid that, soon, most of us will end up displaced from the very lands we have inhabited since time immemorial. We are afraid that many of us will also be killed in our pursuit for self-determination. 

On the occasion of the commemoration of the 64th International Human Rights Day, I challenge you to give due attention to the plight of the Blaan in Tampakan,  Kiblawan, Columbio, and Malungon whose lives and livelihood are already seriously affected by the mining activities of Sagittarius Mines Inc.(SMI-Xstrata). The $5 billion copper-gold mining project which straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, Davao Del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani Province has brought us nothing but conflicts, hunger, deprivation, and worse, death.

As we celebrate another year of the historic United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, I urge you Mr. President to:

Show us that apathy has not become the heart of your Matuwid na Daan by holding accountable all those who were involved including Col. Alexis Bravo in the massacre of Juvy Capion and her sons.  Stop the alarming increase of human rights violations in our communities by immediately pulling out all military contingents in Bong Mal and other indigenous communities.  

Show us that your administration genuinely upholds human rights by investigating the practices, business ethics and human rights records of SMI-Xstrata and all other large-scale mining companies and make them account for the violations committed against indigenous peoples and peasant communities.
Show us that you truly recognize and respect our rights as indigenous peoples by cancelling the Financial Technical Assistance Agreement between the Philippine government and SMI-Xstrata.  We stand by our right to self-determination including our right to wage pangayaw to defend our lives, territories and the environment from foreign plunder.  Corollary to this, the military and local government units should stop from maliciously accusing my brothers, Dagil and Batas Capion, of murder and banditry.

The B’laans of Bong Mal and all indigenous peoples expect decisive action from you Mr. President.  We call for justice for Juvy, Jordan and Mark John and all other indigenous peoples who were slain by the military and paramilitary groups.   As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the blood of Juvy and of her sons are on your hands too, Mr. President.

We hope that you will listen to us and that our cry for justice will not again fall on deaf ears. 

Erita Capion Dialang

*Erita and her relatives are in Manila, Philippines as part of the 74-member delegation of the Manilakbayan, a mission of indigenous peoples and peasants from Mindanao to the nation’s capital to demand justice for victims of human rights violations and for the Aquino government to stop the killings and plunder of Mindanao engendered by mining and other business interests in the island.