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The Philippines: Threats against indigenous human rights defender Ms Erita Capion Dialang after the killing of relatives in an army attack
Indigenous human rights defender Ms Erita Capion Dialang has been under threat since the killing of her sister-in-law on 18 October 2012, during an attack by a battalion of the Philippine armed forces.
Erita Capion Dialang is the chairperson of the indigenous peoples' organisation KALGAD, which is active in South Cotabato province, and part of a large alliance of indigenous peoples of Southern Mindanao. While there have been reports of members of the community using force, Erita Capion Dialang has continued to peacefully denounce crimes by the military and oppose Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), a multinational mining corporation that wants to start exploiting the ancestral lands of her tribe.
Around 6am on 18 October 2012, members of the Philippine Armed Forced 27th Infantry Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Noel Alexis Bravo, entered the village of Fayahlob, South Cotabato province, and proceeded to attack the Capion family's house with a machine gun. The attack killed Erita Capion Dialang's sister-in-law, Juvy Capion as well as two of Juvy Capion's children. The attack has been described by the military as a “legitimate encounter” despite the results of fact-finding missions by non-governmental organisations in the area. It is reported that the military tampered with the scene, washing blood away from the house and moving the bodies of the deceased, before the arrival of the forensic investigation team.
Days before the deadly attack, the human rights defender had travelled to Manila in order to be interviewed by ABS-CBN news company for its programme Failon Ngayon, which focuses on social issues. In the interview, she drew attention to the harassment, intimidation and other violations of human rights frequently suffered by the Blaan people at the hands of the mining corporation and the military. The exposure she has given to violations on their part has contributed to her status as one of the leading indigenous voices in the region.
Erita Capion Dialang has been under threat for a long time due to her high profile and vocal criticism of the actions by the mining corporation and the 27th infantry battalion of the armed forces. The threats mention that the military forces are looking to liquidate her, and that she is being kept under surveillance. In addition to this, she is in a vulnerable position due to the remote location of her village of Bong Mal, Tampakan, South Cotabato province, where lines of communication are unstable.
KALGAD is a regional indigenous organisation currently involved in a campaign against the mining corporation Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) that has started exploiting large-scale open-pit copper and gold mines in the boundary area of South Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani provinces, on the ancestral lands of the Blaan people, who are represented by KALGAD. They are members of the regional alliance of indigenous peoples' organisations KALUHHAMIN, which covers southern Mindanao island.