GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The brother of fugitive Blaan tribal leader Daguil Cafeon was slain in an alleged encounter with government soldiers in the remote village of Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur Tuesday morning.
Killed was Kitari Cafeon who, according to the military, was hit on the hip and was rushed to the Allah Valley Hospital in Koronadal City but died several hours later.
Capt. William Alfred Rodriguez, spokesman of the 1002nd Brigade based in Sarangani province, said a squad of soldiers from Task Force Kitaco led by Sgt. Edwin Olpoc was conducting foot patrol when they were reportedly fired upon by the armed tribal group led by Daguil Cafeon.
After a brief encounter, Cafeon and his group reportedly withdrew leaving behind Kitari.
The Cafeon brothers and their group have been called bandits by the military.
“The incident is very unfortunate for the bandit, who for a long time, we are trying to convince to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law to face the criminal charges against them,” Rodriguez said in a statement sent to the media here.
Daguil Cafeon (not Capion as earlier reported) however said the soldiers raided the place they were staying resulting into an exchange of gunfire.
In a telephone interview, Cafeon told ABS-CBN TV Patrol Socsksargen they were resting and were reportedly given assurance by Task Force Kitaco head Maj. Joel Wayagwag they will not be harmed if they will stay put in the area.
Cafeon is however wanted for a string of ambuscades that left at least six people dead, most of them security guards and consultants of Sagittarius Mines Inc. and drill contractors of the said company. Several arrest warrants have been issued against him and members of his armed group.
Cafeon and several Blaan residents Bong Mal, Tampakan town of South Cotabato took arms to protest ongoing mining operations of SMI in their area.
He accused SMI of encroaching into their ancestral domain.
In October last year, Cafeon’s wife Juvy was killed together with his son and his wife’s son by first marriage when a platoon of soldiers raked their house in nearby Sitio Datal-Alyong, also in Kimlawis during an early morning raid.
Cafeon escaped harm when he opted to sleep the night before in the nearby vegetated area to avoid detection.
The military claimed the killing was also a result of an encounter but human rights group however said it was a massacre.
Cafeon himself said there was no exchange of gunfire as he was some 200 meters away from their house when the soldiers fired at his wife and children.
The incident sparked international outcry.
The AFP has since then placed all soldiers involved in the killing of Juvy and her two children under court martial.
Cafeon’s two other brothers have also joined him and are likewise wanted by the government.