13 soldiers face raps for civilian deaths-A A +A
Thursday, November 1, 2012
DAVAO (Updated) -- An officer and 12 other soldiers of the Philippine Army will face court-martial after they engaged in a clash with outlaws in Mindanao that killed a pregnant woman and her two children.
The clash happened in Barangay Kimlawis of Kiblawan in Davao del Sur last October 18.
The soldiers were identified as First Lieutenant Dante Jimenez, leader; Sergeant (Sgt.) Dennis Murillo; Sgt. Romel Ballenas; Corporal (Cpl.) Robert Godio; Cpl. Ahiyal Namla; Cpl. Bruce K. Sahali; Cpl. Bashir Said; Cpl. Julah Majid; Cpl. Jemson Jadjuli; Private First Class (Pfc.) Marlowe Gamayot; Pfc. Joel Lopez; Pfc. Darryl Tayamora; and Pfc. Richard Julian, all members of the 27th Infantry Battalion.
The commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion Col. Alexis Bravo was also relieved from his post.
Regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza said an Army investigation showed the soldiers did not follow combat rules during the firefight that led to the crossfire deaths of the three civilians inside a hut.
Paniza said Thursday the investigation showed the soldiers got involved in a clash with outlaws, denying claims by human rights activists that the army troops intentionally strafed the hut, which was owned by tribesmen opposing mining activities in their ancestral land.
Paniza said based on the recommendation of the Board of Inquiry (BOI), their troops would face the court martial proceedings for violation of Articles of War 76 (Misbehavior before the enemy), 96 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman), and 97 (Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline) of the Rules of Engagement.
Paniza said based on BOI's six-page report, Jimenez admitted he failed to assess whether the ones hiding in a house that they fired at were members of the New People’s Army (NPA) or from Daguil Capeon.
Killed in that operation were Capeon’s wife Juvy and their sons Pop, 8, and John, 13. Their daughter Vicky, 7, was wounded.
"Though there was an error about the judgment of the 27th Infantry Battalion's commander Colonel Alexis Bravo because he failed to direct his men with the Rules of Engagement, but that doesn't mean the incident was a massacre. What happened was a legitimate encounter," Paniza said.
Jimenez, in a statement, said his men were 200 meters away from the house before he directed 10 of his 12 members to get closer, when several armed men fired them that prompted them (except Ballenas, Tayamora, and Julian) to return fire.
Reports said there were 43 bullets entry holes on the house alone, but based on the spot report of the Kiblawan Police, only 19 bullets were spent by the soldiers.
Recovered from the area were one rifle grenade, two combat packs with personal belongings, 5.56mm empty shells, and two M16 rifle magazines loaded with 20 rounds of 5.56mm live ammos, which the military claims are owned by Capeon and his men.
"But since the operation was squad-size and was initiated within the company commander’s level, it should be the responsibility of First Lieutenant Jimenez to assess the situation and properly brief his troops on the possible circumstances," Paniza said.
He added that they are still waiting for ballistics test to determine what bullets hit the pregnant mother and two children.
Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said in an interview that the order has been issued for full internalization of their members on the rules of engagement especially to their battalions and units so as to avoid the same incident.
However, Bernardo said they have to wait for the results of the ballistics test to know whose firearms had killed the three civilians, adding it is their responsibility to announce necessary action for their men.
He also said that court martial proceedings would be beneficial for the 13 accused soldiers because they will be given the opportunity to defend themselves.
On the other hand, Bernardo said Bravo was removed from his position as commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion to prevent a cover up and to speed up the investigation.
In a previous interview, Capeon said he was alone several meters away from the house and also denies being armed. This was attested to by Marisa Capeon Piang during separate interviews. (With RSA of Sun.Star Davao/AP/Sunnex)
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 02, 2012.