Philippines: Tribal elder and son slain in bloody mining disputeBy Edwin Espejo Sep 01, 2013 10:42PM UTC
Almalew (pronounced al-me-law), the Blaans’ way of expressing hatred and exacting revenge for killed or murdered kin.
Why do angels of death strike before the break of day in this troubled paradise called Bong Mal?
And why did they murder the tribe’s most respected sage – the fulong ?
These two questions will forever haunt whoever masterminded and perpetrated the heinous crime that is becoming a scourge for those who wish to exploit the ancestral lands of the Blaans in the tri-boundaries of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Kiblawan in Davao del Sur in the southern Philippines.
Anting Freay – husband to nine wives, father to 22 children, eldest among 19 siblings and the most respected elder among a large clan – and his son Victor became the latest victims of the violence that has invaded the lush, green homelands of the Blaan tribesmen. This unspoilt paradise may not be around for much longer, if the mining companies get their way and are granted permission to mine for the gold and copper below.
Bong Mal, with its remaining thick forest cover, is the last frontier – the last retreat for Blaans who have been driven deeper and deeper into the mountains by ‘progress’. It is on the Kiblawan side of the boundary with Tampakan.
Ki-it Freay, 4th wife of Anting with whom he had four children, said they were awakened by the barking of their dogs before the break of day on August 23. Her husband went out to check only to be met with a hail of gunfire. Anting dropped dead, instantly.
Ki-it said she saw armed men in fatigue uniforms from the slats of their house. When she tried to go near the fallen Anting, one of the gunmen pointed a rifle at her head. She was forced to run back, grab two of her children and, together, they ran downhill until she reached the house of one of Anting’s other wives.
Victor, who was living down the hill from where his father was gunned down, was awakened by the wailing and shouting of Ki-it. He went out to check on his father but was also met with a burst of automatic fire.
Alfonso Malayon said their troubles – the Blaans, at least – began when the military started putting up detachments and training government paramilitary forces, the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).
“Daghan pa gyud mahitabo kung dili sila mohawa (There will be more violent incidents if they will not leave),” said Malayon, the No.1 village councilman of Barangay Danlag.
The wake of Anting and his son Victor was held in Kampo 5, Barangay Danlag of Tampakan town after a sub-village in Bululkalon became a no man’s land following the slaying of the eldest fulong of the clan. The mother of Ric Magbanua, village chief of Danlag, is a younger sister of Anting.
The sister of fugitive tribal leader Daguil Capion is also one of the wives of Anting.
The killings – the amalew – all began when Daguil’s wife Juvy Capion and their two children were killed by elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion in a dawn raid October last year in Sitio Alyong in the village of Kimlawis, in Kiblawan town of Davao del Sur, not far from Bong Mal. In January this year, Daguil’s younger brother Kitari was also slain in an alleged encounter with government soldiers. Pilo, another brother of Daguil, suspected that some CAFGU members tipped off Kitari to the military and joined the operation that killed their brother. Pilo joined his brother in arming themselves against the threat. On August 20, the patrol base of the military in Sitio Alyong was attacked by fully armed men resulting in the death of CAFGU Active Auxiliary member Romeo Marila. Companions of Marila believed Pilo was also involved the attack
Danlag village councilman Alfonso Malayon believed Anting was killed on suspicion that he was behind the armed attack on the CAFGU patrol base in Sitio Alyong and suspected that CAFGU members from Alyong were responsible for the death of the respected Blaan fulong.
Malayon said whoever killed Anting violated a Blaan tradition of not touching or moving the body of a slain tribesman except by close relatives.
Pering Freay, the lone living brother of Anting, said blood and violence run in the veins of their clan. And more often than not, they have been on the receiving end. Their father, Nalwangay Anting, was also killed by government soldiers in the 1970s. Six of his brothers, including Anting, were also gunned down.
“Sa mga sundalo (by soldiers),” he said when asked who did them.
Felipe, eldest son of Anting, blamed Sagittarius Mines Inc (SMI). for pitting tribesmen against their own.
“Ang tribu dali kaayo intuon (It is easy to deceive the tribesmen),” Felipe said in criticizing the company’s practice of offering money to gain social acceptability.
SMI has openly admitted it has been giving funds to local government units where they operate for its Community Peace and Security Program (CPSP). Last year, it amounted to P30 million (US$672,862), according to a company source who was since been retrenched. The bulk of the funds eventually ended up as support for the operation and maintenance of CAFGU members and detachments. The company later clarified it has nothing to do on how the LGUs spent their assistance.
In addition, it is also giving assistance to tribal foundations of host communities, most of them holders of certificate of ancestral domain claims or titles (CADC or CADT).
On Sunday (September 1), Anting and his son Victor were buried, two tribal chieftains – Dalina Samling of Danlag and Celso Doc of Pulabato – paid their respects to Anting.
Anting was a moderating figure among Blaans, who have been bitterly divided over the mining operations of SMI.
Samling and Doc are supportive of SMI and recently signed a petition to allow the Glencore-Xstrata controlled company to proceed with its US$5.9 billion project.
They did not issue any statement over the killing but Dalina noted that the CAFGUs deployed in the area are now engaged in kaingin (slash and burn farming).
Anting himself was not anti-mining. According to reports, he had been receiving stipends from the company. But one of his sons said the slain elder tribesman could not turn his back against Daguil, who had taken up arms to oppose the mining operations of SMI. Daguil, in a recent video interview, claimed he has now joined the New People’s Army.
A neighbor of Anting said Daguil often visited the murdered fulong in his house, despite efforts of the military and police to capture him.
Anting’s protectiveness however should not be mistaken. He was always the elder statesmen – one who handed out kasfalas between and among warring neighbors or clans. One who shoulders the kafligoh (dowry) of tribe members who cannot afford to offer a horse to the parents of his bride-to-be. One who pays for the fines and penalties of the transgression of others.
He was not a violent man.
A confidential report obtained by the author said those responsible for the death of Anting and his son were members of the 39th and 72nd Infantry Battalions, along with Task Force Kitaco, the Army-led unit task in securing the towns of Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbio. It is headed by a certain Lt. Balibagoso (not Capt. Joel Waygawag as earlier reported) of the Philippine Army.
Another Anting son however said he saw a certain Leon, a militiaman from Kimlawis, in the company of soldiers belonging to the 39th IB a day before the killings. He said he would recognize some of the CAFGUs if he saw them again.
The report that reached this author said two days before the Freay killings, soldier arrived in the area on board 2 six-by-six military trucks. The day Anting and his son were killed, residents also saw a 4×4 pick-up truck (with no plate number) passing through the village of Datal Biao. It is believed that the same pick-up truck was used in transporting the bodies of Anting and Victor Freay to Tampakan town.
The military then reported an alleged encounter took place resulting into the death of Anting Freay and his son Victor.
True or not, by painting Freay as a violent man, the military may have just stoked the anger of surviving tribesmen.
Almalew is hatred and revenge. It could spiral into pangayao, a tribal war.
Bathala bless this land!
Several minutes after Anting and Victor were interred in a tomb perched on top of the hill that overlooks Tampakan town to the west, four gunshots were heard. Their adjoined tomb is facing another hill to the north, where a CAFGU detachment was concealed by vegetation.
Moments later, A CAFGU member confronted residents and asked who fired their guns. It was Alfonso Malayong who drove away on a motorcycle.
The CAFGU man was overheard saying, “Walay respeto. Kagawad pa naman unta.” (He was disrespectful. I thought he was a councilman).”
The CAFGU man was probably not from the place. He also didn’t look a tribesman.
He could have referred to himself, too.
In the Blaan way of life, owning a gun is a symbol of authority. It is now fast becoming the preferred dowry and a personal possession even more prized than a horse. It can also serve as a means to express sorrow and outrage. Or exact revenge.
Adwata bless this land!
Adwata or Dwata – Blaan word for God the Almighty
Kasfala – decision/judgement