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SOUTHERN COMFORT: Why can’t SMI just man up?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 09 November) Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI) has so far kept its silence over the killing of 27-year old Juvy Capion and her two young sons last October 18 in a remote village in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur, a province in southern Philippines.

Except for a paragraph or two denying any involvement in the brutal slaying, however, SMI also offered no genuine condolence and sympathy to the victims.  It is understandable.  The husband of Juvy Capion is a fierce tribal leader who has taken up arms to protest SMI’s mining operations in Tampakan, South Cotabato and nearby Kiblawan in Davao del Sur.

But out of the blue, pro-mining tribal chieftains held a press conference Thursday virtually exonerating SMI from any culpability in the heinous crime.

Whoever planned the press conference is doing grave injustice to the Capion family.

While it may be true that SMI did not have a direct hand in the killing, its presence in the area was the only reason it happened.  While elements of the Philippine Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion were directly responsible for the massacre, blood is also written all over SMI’s hands.

It would have been better if it was SMI who faced the media to deny any direct or indirect involvement and console with remaining relatives of the victims.

But by allowing tribal leaders to take the cudgels for them, SMI only showed its callousness and insensitivity.  The people behind SMI may only be stoking hatred among and between warring communities of the Blaan tribe to which the victims belong as well as majority of the pro-mining tribal leaders present during the press conference.  It was cowardly, to say the least, for SMI not to give a face to their denial and to instead thrust Blaan tribal leaders into the line of fire.

Why did the pro-mining tribal leaders, if they believe it was solely the military which was responsible to the massacre, not call for the pullout and immediate prosecution of the officers and men who mercilessly killed Juvy Capion and her sons?

Why all the fuss about any involvement in the killing when SMI was only reminded, to put it mildly, that the root of all the violence in the mining site is its encroachment of the ancestral lands of the Blaans.

True, chieftains of five tribal communities have expressed support for its operations.  But how many, from among the thousands who will be displaced, are also against the operations of SMI?

Who would not believe and suspect SMI was behind the press conference?

The choice of venue, timing and agenda is simply too amateurish not to put SMI’s spineless hands behind it.

SMI should have just simply manned up, faced the community and called a spade a spade. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)


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