Army admits lapses in Matanao attacks

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Friday, March 14, 2014


THE military has admitted lapses when government troops engaged in an encounter with the New People's Army (NPA) rebels following a series of rebel attacks in Matanao, Davao del Sur.

Two policemen and seven soldiers were killed, while 11 others were wounded in a series of attacks by rebels in Matanao last March 10.

Two rebels were also killed after an encounter with soldiers belonging to the Army's 39th Infantry Battalion.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, chief of the Army's 19th Infantry Division, said they have underestimated the number of the rebels during the incident.

He added the unfortunate incident could have been avoided.

"I am sure may lapses na nangyari. We anticipated the move of the NPA kasi anytime naman possible silang umatake kaya nga meron tayong troops na nagbabantay everywhere, but in terms of the tactical decision-making, you really have to choose what is right and which is better," Bernardo said.

"In fact, the Army's Board of Inquiry (BOI) earlier requested us to look at the possible lapses on the incident, and we admit that meron talagang lapses so for all of us to learn a lesson from the incident. Yun na nga, sana hindi na maulit ito," he added.

Bernardo said that government authorities who thwarted the rebels attack did their best to protect their area of responsibility. He also said the authorities deserve to be recognized.

Those killed in the attacks were Sergeant Porras; Corporal Pacionela; Corporal Jihani; Private First Class (Pfc.) Palma; Pfc. Tanjilul; Private Dayaday; and Second Lieutenant Alejo, while the eight wounded were Pfc. Lingco; Pfc. Abellana; Pfc. Pacquiao; Pfc. Alilaya; Pfc. Parañal; Pfc. Kancan; Private Samano and Corporal Sanayatin.
Bernardo also assured that the families of the soldiers killed in encounter will receive cash assistance.

He added that their children, too, will get scholarship program, and those families who don't own a house may also avail of the state's housing program.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) Brigadier General Alexander Balutan urged the community, especially the local government units, to support the armed forces Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan.

"Winning the peace is a fight of the entire community not only the military and police. Kaya nga tinatawag na IPSP Bayanihan because we harness the cooperation of the communities, especially the local government unit to address the issue of the insurgency," Balutan said.

As to the claim of the NPA that the incident was just a punishment to the policemen for being "cuddlers of illegal drugs" and soldiers for protecting the mining companies, Balutan said these were "just wild accusations of the rebels."

"Wala naman silang ibang ginawa kundi maghanap kung ano pwede nilang ikasira sa mga police at kasundaluhan natin. It's part of their propaganda," Balutan said.

The Eastmincom recorded a total of 460 NPA landmines exploded since 2010, of which 134 people were killed and 333 were wounded.

Meanwhile, the newly-installed Davao del Sur Provincial Police Office director Sr. Supt. Mike Dubria said the authorities already filed criminal charges before the Davao del Sur Provincial Prosecution Office against the nine suspected NPA members who were arrested following their earlier encounter with troops in Barangay Saboy.

Dubria added that NPA rebels were charged with three counts of multiple murder, three counts of frustrated murder, malicious mischief, and robbery en banc.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 14, 2014.

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