NPA’s latest recruit: Fugitive tribal leader

Edwin G. Espejo

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B'laan leader Daguil Capeon blames the government for failing to address their issues against mining in South Cotabato

Screen grab from Daguiol Capeon's interview courtesy of Youtube user rigmakaspar

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – He’s lost his wife and two children. And last January, he lost his brother too.

A B’laan tribal leader who is on the run for leading bloody attacks against employees and security personnel of the Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI) in South Cotabato has joined the New People’s Army (NPA).

In a video posted by the NPA, Daguil Capeon said his group is now in alliance with the NPA, blaming the government for failing to address their concerns over SMI’s incursion in their ancestral lands.

“It pains us in the heart that we are being driven out from our lands,” Capeon said in the local dialect in a 21-minutevideo clip posted in YouTube. An M-16 Armalite rifle is rested on the makeshift table in front of him. Behind him is an NPA flag.

Capeon’s pregnant wife and two children were killed in a military raid in October last year in Kimlawis village of Kiblawan town in Davao del Sur. His brother was also killed in another military raid in January 2013.

The Philippine military has branded Capeon and his group as bandits.

But Capeon said they are fighting for their legitimate right to defend their way of life.

He said the mining operations of SMI have turned their tribe into warring factions of pro and anti-mining camps. He said they been killing each other at the expense of SMI.

Capeon also scored the military for deploying soldiers in their area without their consent.

“We were forced to take arms because if we won’t fight, they will take away our land,” he explained.

Capeon last worked for SMI as a community relations organizer of the mining company.

He said he was disillusioned after realizing that SMI will destroy the forest where their tribe had lived for centuries and will eventually displaced them.

“The mountains are our biggest market. The forests have everything we need. We did not have debts,” he narrated.

He recalled the moments he shared with his slain wife Juvy.

“She was very thoughtful and generous. We had plans for our children, especially our eldest,” Capeon recalled.

He said the death of his wife and brother will serve as an inspiration in his fight against SMI.

(Click on Captions for English subtitles)

Resist mining

He also issued calls for other tribes to resist mining. “Let us not be fooled by mining,” he said.

He likewise appealed to fellow B’laans to understand their resistance. “We are doing this for the sake of future generations,” Capeon added.

“We will not only lose our tradition. We will lose our environment (because of mining),” he said.

In an interview with ABS-CBN Socsksargen, SMI spokesman John Arnaldo denied any company role in the deployment of government soldiers in the area.

“They (soldiers) are there upon the request of the communities,” Arnaldo said.

SMI owns the Tampakan copper and gold project, reputedly host Asia’s largest untapped copper deposits

In the same report, the Army’s 1002nd Brigade commanding officer Col. Marcos Norman Flores said the alleged militarization in the hinterlands of Tampakan in South Cotabato and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur “is never true.”

“He (Capeon) should understand our role,” even as Col. Flores said Capeon took the “wrong path.” –

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