Xstrata Sagittarius Mines
Xstrata Sagittarius Mines

CHICAGO – “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service, and during that period, I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers.

In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues.

“I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912.”

This quotation was culled from a talk at the public forum, “Living the Social Gospel Today,” which was held last Oct. 11 at the Philippine American Ecumenical Church in Chicago, Illinois during the observance of the 40th anniversary of Philippine martial law. Filipino-American author and theologian, Dr. Eleazar Fernandez, got the direct quote from Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, an outspoken critic of military adventurism and, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in US history.

General Butler, who saw action in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War, appears to be the model of trigger-happy members of the Philippine military, including soldiers of the 27thInfantry Battalion of the Philippine Army led by Lt. Col. Noel Alexis Bravo.

Karapatan, the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights based in Quezon City, Philippines, claimed soldiers of Colonel Bravo, fired at the house of indigenous B’laan tribal leader Dagil Capion on Oct. 18 at 6 a.m., killing Dagil’s wife, Juvy, who was two-month pregnant, and their two sons, Jorge “Pap,” 13, and Jan-Jan, 7. The attack took place in Fayahlob, Sitio Datal-Alyong, Danlag Village, Tampakan, South Cotabato. Dagil and his daughter, Vicky, 5, were wounded.

In an attempt to lure Dagil into surrendering, the soldiers brought the bodies of Juvy and her sons outside the house. Juvy was a member of Kalgad, a local Lumad organization, which is opposing the operations of Xstrata’s Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) in Tampakan. Dagil, in his capacity as B’laan tribal leader, was likewise opposing SMI operations to mine the rich gold and copper deposits in Tampakan.

President Aquino should immediately order the formation of an independent fact-finding team that would be tasked to look into the massacre. The team should be composed of human rights groups, the Church, local government and the Commission on Human Rights.

The military should stop labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

As a signatory to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other major human rights conventions, the Philippines should protect, not violate, the human rights of the Filipino people.

If it is found out that the large-scale mining of Xstrata’s Sagittarius Mines is intruding into the tribal property, President Aquino should cancel the mining permit.

The massacre of the Capions by men in uniform does not appear to be an isolated case. In my home region of Bikol, elements of the 49thInfantry Battalion are also being accused of killing Barangay Captain Merlyn Bernas last Aug.7 in Barangay Malaya, Labo, Camarines Norte. Bernas was tagged as a member of the New People’s Army. Bernas, however, had the support of her constituents, who turned out in full force to denounce the military during funeral procession for Bernas.

In Bulan, Sorsogon, soldiers of 8thScout Ranger led by 2nd Lt. Jay Maravilla under the 31stInfantry Battalion also shot and killed on July 17, 2012 a coconut farmer they suspected as an NPA member. The killing was reported over local radio by 31stIB Commander, Lt. Col. Judy Torribio.

On April 30, 2012, soldiers of the 9th Infantry Battalion likewise shot and killed Jovic Estrellado in Gubat, Sorsogon. A certain PFC Jordan Enconada had earlier asked Estrellado to withdraw a case he filed against some members of 9th IB.

President Aquino should dismantle the Peace and Development Team  that is used as cover for the Army’s Death Squads.

Mr. Aquino should never use the military to support what Doctor Fernandez calls “corporate greed” that was denounced by General Butler, who called the US military as a “gangster of capitalism.”

Fernandez said, “When your interest is not of the people, you need the military to protect yourself against the people. Protection of the interest of the few leads to repression of the many. This is what the predatory global market does. It goes against the interest of the people. It is anti-democratic and what is at stake here is our democratic life.”

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.

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