Tag Archives: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lanao Del Norte Ambush

24 Oct

3 Soldiers were killed in an ambush in Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao Del Norte. according to report posted by Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 23, 2011;

COTABATO City, Philippines—Suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels on Sunday killed three soldiers in an ambush in Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte.

Three soldiers under the military’s 5th Infantry Battalion were wounded in the same incident, Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, told the Inquirer by phone.

Cabangbang said that troops, headed by Lt. Col. Bagnun Gearlan, were heading to the nearby town of Malabang, Lanao del Sur, when they were ambushed around 11:15 a.m. along the highway in the village of Payong in Sultan Naga Dimaporo town.

Cabangbang said the attackers later fled toward the village shoreline.

“We are still trying to figure out if MILF rebels perpetrated the attacks,” Cabangbang said.

Von Al Haq, spokesman for the rebel group, denied that their forces were involved in the latest assault against government troops.

“We are investigating. But as of yesterday (Saturday), the directive to all our forces on the ground is to maintain our defensive position,” he said.

Earlier on October 21, Moro rebels killed seven troops in three ambushes in Zamboanga Sibugay and on October 19, MILF fighters killed 19 soldiers in an ambush they staged in the town of Al Barka in Basilan province.

On Saturday, some 150 suspected MILF rebels reportedly occupied two schools in Talusan town in Zamboanga Sibugay.

In one of the latest eruptions of violence in Mindanao on Sunday, suspected Muslim rebels also killed five rubber plantation workers on Basilan island, according to a report by Agence France Presse.

“Five were killed in this morning’s ambush,” regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Randolph Cabangbang said, according to the AFP wire report.

So much had happened for the month of October 2011 in mindanao. Last October 3, 2011 the NPA rebels attack the Taganito Mining Site in Surigao, instead of condemning the attacks President Aquino relieved the Police Commanders due to negligence. The NPA next attacked a banana plantation in Surigao the government again called this as an isolated case.

October 18, 2011 carnage of the Military was the most deadliest made by Mindanao rebels, and  MILF followed-up this with the ambush at Zamboanga Sibugay after 2 days. Again the government called this as just an isolated cases, and has yet to issue condemning the ambushes being made by MILF. While the Military was on its low morale the MILF again attacks anew, ambushing a group of soldiers this time at Lanao Del Norte.

The military were being ambush and killed in all fronts and yet the President has yet to issue a statement condemning the attacks because of His policy of peace. Peace talk should be suspended until the MILF has surrendered the culprit.

While the Aquino administration is bent on pursuing lasting peace in Mindanao, He should not let his armed forces be killed, this would just make them demoralized. By issuing statements condemning the attacks made by rebels at least would boost the morale of his men, and not by lashing due to negligence. Our government should make their stand during peace talk negotiations, and the interest of the majority must be the priority and not the MILF’s interest as Mindanao population is not purely Muslims, there are Christians also.

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MILF clashes again anew

22 Oct

As the Basilan clash between the military and MILF were still fresh from the minds of the Filipino people, and are still being investigated by the Philippine government, a new bloody encounter has been reported again between the military and the MILF this time it was in Zamboanga Sibugay. This time the casualties are 7 soldiers and policemen and 7 other wounded and 1 soldier reported missing. According to the news posted at Philippine Star website, dated October 22, 2011 ;

MANILA, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) escalated its attacks on government forces, killing seven soldiers and policemen with seven others wounded and another soldier missing in Zamboanga Sibugay late Thursday.

The attacks came two days after MILF forces killed 19 soldiers in Basilan in one of the worst outbreaks of violence that brought the death toll among security forces to 26.

Col. Santiago Baluyot, chief of the Army’s 102nd Brigade, yesterday said the rebels ambushed two military convoys in Barangay Gulayon in Alicia town and a separate attack against a joint military-police patrol in Simbol, Kabasalan town.

Baluyot said the convoy was on its way back to headquarters in Ipil town when it was attacked.

MILF spokesman Von al Haq said the rebels did carry out the assaults, which he said were in retaliation for the military’s alleged “indiscriminate shelling” of Muslim villages.

And Philippine Daily Inquirer’s report posted on its website dated October 22, 2011;

MILF admits killing 7 more troops in 3 attacks

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Seven soldiers and policemen were killed in three separate attacks in Zamboanga Sibugay province late Thursday, bringing to 26 the death toll among government forces in one of the worst outbreaks of violence in strife-torn Mindanao this week.

Ten others were wounded in the attacks, barely two days after 19 soldiers were killed during a fight with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Basilan province.

The MILF immediately admitted that its forces had staged Thursday’s attacks in Alicia and Kabasalan towns, but claimed these were in retaliation for military actions there.

The attacks occurred over a four-hour span within a 60-kilometer radius.

Four soldiers were killed and six wounded in the first ambush which occurred at about 7:21 p.m. in Barangay Gulayon in Alicia town, said Brig. Gen. Santiago Baluyot, commander of the Army’s 102nd Infantry Brigade.

Two hours later, a soldier was wounded in an MILF ambush on a military truck in Ipil town, and three policemen were killed in a third ambush near midnight in Kabasalan town. Two policemen and one soldier were wounded in the third attack.

“The police and the Army were conducting joint operation in Zamboanga Sibugay,” explained Chief Supt. Elpidio de Asis, the Western Mindanao police chief.

Before the Kabasalan ambush, Baluyot said an improvised bomb exploded in a vacant lot near the port of Malangas but nobody was hurt.

De Asis said a similar explosion also occurred in Imelda town, but no one was injured.

Retaliatory attacks

In Cotabato City, MILF spokesperson Von al Haq said the MILF rebels staged the series of ambushes in Zamboanga Sibugay because the military had been pounding rebel positions in Payao town since Saturday.

“That’s the consequences of their action. It’s retaliation, part of war. Soldiers have been indiscriminately pounding our position and civilian areas in Payao town,” Al Haq said in a phone interview.

However, the attacks on Alicia and Kabasalan, which were led by Alloy, a commander under the MILF’s 114th Base Command, was not coordinated with the MILF central committee, Al Haq said.

“The action of our men was not organizational. It means the order to attack did not come from the central committee. It was their decision,” he said.

Al Haq said the MILF’s ceasefire committee has been working with its government counterpart to defuse the tensions.

On Tuesday, 19 soldiers were killed in a clash with MILF rebels in Al-Barka, Basilan, while on a mission to arrest a local MILF commander, Dan Laksaw Asnawi.

The military had said Asnawi was a fugitive. Asnawi, who operates under the MILF’s 114th Base Command, was charged with involvement in the beheading and mutilation of Marine soldiers, also in Al-Barka, in 2007.

He was arrested but escaped from the Basilan provincial jail, along with more than two dozen inmates, in December 2009.

Military air strikes

In Olutangga, Zamboanga Sibugay, parish priest Fr. Felmar Castrodes said he had been informed by villagers that the military had conducted air strikes against MILF forces in Payao town on Friday.

He said the air strikes started 4 p.m. Friday and were reported to him by residents of the villages bordering Payao and Olutangga towns.

“They feared that the violence would spread to their town,” he said in a text message.

The report could not immediately be verified. The military spokesperson based in Zamboanga City could not be reached for comment.

US drone deployed?

In Cotabato City, United States soldiers stationed in Zamboanga City under the Visiting Forces Agreement have started providing help to the military in locating the MILF rebel group responsible for the deaths of 19 soldiers in Al-Barka, Basilan, a military source said on Friday.

The source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the US forces have deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Basilan to track down the group of Asnawi.

“They are providing us information from what they obtained through their unmanned aerial vehicle,” the source said.

But Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City, has denied the information.

Cabangbang said he was not aware of any request made for the deployment of a UAV in Basilan.

“Besides, it would be useless because of the forest cover. UAVs are effective in open terrain but not over areas that have many trees,” he said.

Cabangbang said any data gathered by a thermal-equipped UAV would be useless because humans have basically the same thermal signature.

“It would not help distinguish who the enemies are and who are not,” he said.

Other MILF groups

Meanwhile, Basilan Vice Gov. Al Rasheed Sakalahul said his office had received information that armed elements from neighboring towns were converging in support of the MILF rebels in Al-Barka.

“These MILF members are from Sumisip, Tuburan and Tipo-tipo,” he said.

Sakalahul also dismissed a statement from Cabangbang that the MILF rebels that had clashed with military troops on Tuesday in Al-Barka might have been reinforced by armed locals.

“It’s not fair, knowing my people, if there’s an encounter, they will make sure they are far from harm, they will secure their lives and properties,” he said.

Despite the consecutive loses from the military forces in just a couple of days, President Benigno S. Aquino III stood firm on his policy not to engage an all-out war against the MILF, and has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to continue observing the ceasefire agreement with the MILF.

The recent attacks prompted lawmakers to review the government’s position on the MILF. Senator Lacson said that President Aquino should consider the all-out war policy against the MILF just like what former President Joseph Estrada did in 2000. As Senator Lacson said ” It’s time for Pnoy to do an Erap. Peace in Mindanao cannot be achieved unless a tactical victory is attained first by AFP”.

Lacson also said that the belligerence of the MILF was brought about by the policy taken by the government to give the organization special treatment as part of the peace process even after it committed various atrocities in the past.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada also called for the immediate use of military force against the MILF considering the damage that they have done over the past days.

Estrada raised his doubts about the sincerity of the MILF in the ongoing peace negotiations after its move to attack government troops.

Administration and opposition lawmakers at the House of Representatives supported Aquino’s decisión not to launch an all-out war against the MILF.

But some warned Aquino against demoralizing the AFP and surrendering the country’s territorial integrity

Sulu Rep. Nur-Ana Sahidulla said the government must continue to reach out to the separatist group despite its reported atrocities as waging an all-out war would pose greater problems.

Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said the position taken by Aquino showed his resolve to achieve lasting peace.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. backed the President’s decision but also underscored the need for the government to intensify its campaign against the perpetrators.

“PNoy was correct and I support his decision. We should pursue the peace. But take action against the perpetrators,” Belmonte said.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said the peace negotiations with the MILF should still be allowed to continue and let the existing ceasefire mechanisms take care of the recent incidents between the MILF and government forces.

Sen. Francis Escudero, for his part, called on the AFP to conduct an immediate and total review of its actual troop strength versus its troop ceiling in the wake of the separate attacks by the MILF.

The fresh fighting has further complicated efforts to end one of Asia’s longest insurgencies, with the MILF and the military accusing each other of breaking a ceasefire in place to promote peace talks.

Guingona said the ceasefire mechanisms should immediately respond to the situation and “address the wrongs of the encounter and make accountable those who made the offense.”

“This kind of tragedy delays the resolution of the peace process. Delays lessen the confidence of the people for the peace process and risk its failure,” Guingona said.

“This could not be allowed to happen because the longer it takes for us to resolve the problem the more violence it breeds. Violence must stop, rule of law and justice should be the order of the day,” he added. Government peace negotiator Leonen said he would not recommend a suspension of the ceasefire agreement with the MILF.

“We are continually assessing how MILF is complying with our ceasefire agreements. As long as there is a flicker of hope, we have to try it. (Otherwise) I would be first to recommend to President Aquino this is not working,” he said.

There are some talks that the military were already demoralized with what the President’s stand and the way he was disappointed with the military with the recent clashes with MILF. Colonel Antonio Parlade, Philippine Army Spokesman, had suggested in a recent press conference that the Government should declare a temporary suspension of the ceasefire agreement with MILF to allow the military to pursue those responsible for the October 18, 2011 encounter in Al Barka, Basilan.

Instead of hearing the side of Colonel Parlade, Colonel Parlade was relieved of his position. President Aquino’s deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said that spokespersons are not supposed to announce their personal opinion to the public. “The fact remains that as spokespersons we are not policy makers… We are suposed to stick to what the policy is. It should be clear that as spokespersons of the government, we cannot give our personal opinion,” Valte said in an interview over state-run radio, Radyo ng Bayan.

According to Colonel Parlade in a phone interview, “I stand by my statement… I was just echoing the sentiments of the soldiers,” adding that his proposal for the suspension of talks with the separatist group was also his personal opinion. Parlade said that he has “no bad feelings” against the military leadership for his relief. Parlade is one of the three military colonels who have been ordered relieved following the killing of the 19 Army Special Forces members in Sitio Bakisung, Barangay Cambug. The other two officials ordered relieved were Col. Alexander Macario, commander of the Special Operations Task Force of the Philippine Army, and Lt. Col. Leo Peña, commanding officer of the 4th Special Forces Battalion. Peña was ordered relieved a day after the encounter. Macario was relieved for allegedly committing “operational lapses.”

So much for a weakling President, being the Commander in Chief, who always prefer to wear yellow of which by the way means Cowardice, who stand by his policies of attaining peace while His men were being killed on all fronts, while the rebels exploits the ceasefire agreement.

Let us just hope that with the recent attacks that happened, General  Mabanta’s word that the military is not demoralized is true and that he speaks with the sentiments of the soldiers and junior officers for they are at the forefront of the battle unlike this General who just sit in the comfort of his air-conditioned room while the lives of his men are on the line.

And here’s also hoping that the coup de etat’s that happened during the first Aquino administration would not happen in the second Aquino administration.

To all our Soldiers, stay safe always.

Basilan Clash

21 Oct

This caught my eye as i thread upon and read news posted in my favorite newspaper site Philippine Star tuesday evening, October 18, 2011;

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At least 1 soldier killed, 6 wounded in Basilan rebel attack
(philstar.com) October 18, 2011 08:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) – At least one government soldier died and six others wounded early today following a fierce firefight with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern province of Basilan, military officials said.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said based on official reports, one soldier died and six others were wounded after the firefight on the outskirts of Al Barkah town.

When asked if there were military fatalities left behind in Basilan, Cabangbang said, “Its appears there are. We are attending to them. We have no other details yet.”

Cabangbang said the soldiers were deployed to check on the presence of an armed group in the area when the clashed erupted.

Military sources said the fighting lasted for about six hours, in which the rebels reinforced, outnumbering the government troops.

“We are sure the MILF will project that the soldiers were inside MILF territory. I’m sure the soldiers operated outside. They know they are not allowed to operate inside MILF areas,” said a source.

A standing ceasefire between the government and the MILF prohibits government forces from conducting operations inside MILF areas without prior coordination. The MILF is negotiating a peace accord with the government.

The Abu Sayyaf, active in southern Philippines, was founded in the 1990s and has perpetrated a number of high-profile attacks, including kidnapping, bombing and beheading. The Philippine military estimates the group, which has links with external terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, currently has less than 400 members.

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At first i thought that this was just an isolated case, news about the military against the mindanao rebels encounters were usual on everyday papers, to think that NPA Rebels has attack a mining company in Surigao just a couple of weeks ago. Three hours after an update has been flashed and this what was caught me by surprise, as the usual news of military and rebels encounter became a blood bath for the military;

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(UPDATE) Soldiers clash with rebels; 19 killed
Updated October 18, 2011 11:31 PM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Troops battled Muslim guerrillas in a volatile southern province today in fierce fighting that killed at least 19 combatants and left 10 soldiers missing, officials said.

Regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said the fighting erupted at dawn today near Al-Barka town on Basilan island when troops were investigating reports of rebel incursions. Sporadic clashes continued late into the night in the remote region, he said.

At least 13 soldiers were killed and 11 wounded, and 10 others were missing, he said.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front spokesman Von Al Haq said at least three rebels were initially killed in the clash, but police reported at least six rebels were killed.

Al Haq said government troops provoked the fighting by attacking the rebels in their Al-Barka stronghold in violation of an existing cease-fire. Army troops shelled the rebel stronghold after the initial clash, trapping villagers in the fighting, he said.

“The Philippine army is continuously bombarding the area where innocent civilians are being caught in the middle of the ferocious artillery strike,” the rebels said in a statement on their website. “This attack of the government forces blatantly violated the existing ceasefire accord.”

Cabangbang said troops were deployed to check reports by villagers that a group of gunmen known to be holding kidnap victims had strayed in areas close to their communities. He said the troops did not intrude on the guerrilla stronghold, and were about two miles (4 kilometers) from it when they were fired upon by the Moro rebels, prompting the troops to fight back, he said.

Cabangbang said the military believes the gunmen included a former rebel commander identified as Dan Laksaw Asnawi, who escaped from a Basilan jail in 2009 with 30 other inmates. Asnawi was detained for his alleged involvement in the beheading of 14 marines during a 2007 clash in Al-Barka, Cabangbang said.

“When we’re running after a criminal and get near their area, they cannot just kill our soldiers,” Cabangbang told The Associated Press by telephone.

The Moro rebels who clashed with troops were with al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants, he said. Al Haq countered that rebels from his group do not operate with the violent Abu Sayyaf.

Cabangbang said special army forces were searching for the missing soldiers in Basilan, a predominantly Muslim island about 550 miles (880 kilometers) south of Manila.

Al Haq said an army general called him seeking the safe release of the missing soldiers if they were in rebel custody. Al Haq said he replied that his group could not immediately reach their fighters by phone to ask if they were holding military captives.

The 11,000-strong rebel group has waged a bloody insurgency for self-rule in the southern Mindanao region, the homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. The conflict has killed more than 120,000 people and stunted development of the resource-rich but impoverished south.

Malaysian-brokered peace talks between the rebels and the government received a major boost in August when President Benigno Aquino III met rebel chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in Tokyo to bolster the negotiations.

The rebels, however, rejected a government proposal for Muslim autonomy when talks resumed a few weeks later in Malaysia but they said they will continue with the talks.

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On the morning of October 19, 2011, news about the clash is already widespread. MILF has confirmed the Basilan clash though with a new saddening story, claiming that 22 soldiers were killed as against the military’s 13;

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MILF confirms its fighters killed gov’t soldiers in Basilan
Home Updated October 19, 2011 10:00 AM

 MANILA, Philippines – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) announced today that its fighters killed 22 soldiers, not 13 as reported by the military, in a nearly 11-hour firefight in Albarka town, Basilan province yesterday.

The MILF’s claim confirms the military’s report that its troops encountered MILF rebels.

The military said that its troops initially encountered suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits while patrolling a village in Albarka town. The numbers grew as the bandits were joined by MILF rebels stationed in the area, the military added.

The MILF said in a news item posted on its website, luwaran.com, its fighters also seized 22 high-powered military firearms, including four M203 rifles, four Mini M-60, an M-60, and 13 M-16 rifles.

The separatist group said six of its fighters were killed in the clash which started around 5:30 a.m. and lasted until around 4 p.m. yesterday.

The military said that the MILF rebels have taken hostage at least 10 members of the Philippine Army’s scout rangers. Massive search and rescue operations are being conducted by the military to recover its captured soldiers.

In the same news item, the MILF said that it will “help locate the soldiers and will return them if they are in MILF hands.” It said that it already made initial inquiries from its members, but it “yielded negative results.”

The MILF claimed that the clash happened as “government soldiers deliberately attacked an MILF area, without provocation at all.”

The military had denied that its troops provoked the firefight.

The blood clash happened as the government renewed its effort to bring back the MILF back to the negotiating table.

Last August, President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chief Al Haj Murad met in Tokyo and agreed to speed up the talks.

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On October 20, 2011 or two days after the bloody clash, President Nonoy Aquino has made a statement and according to Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, the President was “really angry” when told by the Chieff of Staff about the situation, and the government has dismissed the incident as an isolated case.

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Aquino ‘really angry’ over soldiers’ killing
By Jun Pasaylo The Philippine Star Updated October 20, 2011 11:14 AM

 MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III was “really angry” after learning that soldiers were killed by an armed group in Al-Barka, Basilan on Tuesday, a Malacañang spokesperson said today.

“He was informed by the chief of staff two days ago. Hindi pa alam that time sinong forces ang pumatay sa ating mga sundalo. Siyempre he was really angry that our soldiers were killed,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a radio interview.

Lacierda said that as President Aquino asked for information about the encounter, Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Eduardo Oban sent a military inspector general to Basilan to investigate.

He said that initial information sent to Malacañang was that there was “failure of communication” on the part of the military. He said that they were told that the military units that clashed with the rebels failed to inform the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) about the operation in Sitio Bakisung, Barangay Cambug.

Unacceptable

Lacierda said that the action of the MILF members was “unacceptable.”

“Hindi porke may failure of communication, bakit biglang binanatan ng MILF ang AFP soldiers? That is not acceptable. Alam naman natin na may ceasefire agreement,” he said.

He added that the incident was “frustrating” for the government, which, he said, has been pushing for peaceful means to resolve the problem in Mindanao.

Lacierda said that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, led by Secretary Teresita Deles and peace panel to the MILF chief Marvic Leonen, will coordinate with the CCCH and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group before the government comes out with an official stand on the incident.

He said that the government will also make sure that the incident is tackled in the peace negotiating table.

The soldiers’ killing came two months after the meeting between President Aquino and MILF leader Al Haj Murad in Tokyo last August.

Leonen, who was present in the meeting, said that Aquino and Murad agreed to fast track the peace negotiations and “that the implementation of any agreement should happen within the current administration.”

No need to inform MILF

In a phone interview, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang told Philstar.com that the military did not see any reason to inform the AHJAG of the MILF about the operation in Al-Barka town.

“The place where the encounter happened is more than four kilometers away from the Area of Temporary Stay (ATS),” Cabangbang pointed out.

The ATS is an agreed designated area by the government and the MILF where forces of the separatist can stay to prevent a misencounter.

Cabangbang reiterated that the AHJAG coordination is “only needed” when government troops is conducting an operation within the identified ATS.

“Our troops are conducting combat operations in the area to verify the reported presence of armed men in the area, but it is not within the MILF’s ATS,” he insisted.

Charges vs MILF

The military is now conducting an investigation in the clash that killed 19 soldiers, and wounded 13 others.

“As of this time, we are already conducting a probe on the incident while some of our troops are conducting pursuit operations against the suspect with the coordination of the GPH-MILF AHJAG,” Cabangbang added.

The military spokesman said that the AFP will file criminal complaints and charges for violation of the ceasefire agreement against the MILF.

“Since the MILF admitted that they were the one who killed our soldiers, we will be filing appropriate charges against them,” he said.

Cabangbang, meanwhile, said that the AFP remains optimistic that the incident will not affect the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF. He echoed Leonen’s earlier statement that the incident was “isolated.”

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the government must make a stand regarding on what happened, they should be uplifting the morale of the military after the incident and at the same time not compromising the government stand on MILF-Government Peace talks. But the irony of it all came three days after the incident, the military now claims that 20 out of the total 41 soldiers sent to Al Bakra were first timers in clash and were not familiar with the place and was just been plucked out from scuba-training program. Now the military, even them were not spared by politics, has started pinpointing each other as per newspaper reports as to who ordered the assault and did not made any coordination from other authorities. On Wednesday, October 19, 2011, Colonel Leonardo Peña was relieved as Commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion by Army Chief Lieutenant General Arturo Ortiz pending investigation of the clash incident. Here are the stories coming from the survivors on that fateful day;

source: Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 21, 2011

Before, during, after

Private First Class Renante Malinao of the 13th Special Forces Company said that as soon as his group entered the village at around 6 a.m., the firing from the MILF side immediately began.

“We scattered ourselves to avoid being hit. We crawled so we could survive,” he said, describing the bullets coming from all directions.

Malinao, who was positioned on a slope, said he was still hit despite his efforts to avoid the bullets.

Dark, four gunshots

Private First Class Arnel Malinao, a radioman from the 14th SF who was also injured in the clash, said it was quite dark when the soldiers reached Cambug.

While he and the soldiers were walking toward the target site, they heard four gunshots. “All of these were fired in the air,” Malinao said.

He said he and his comrades shifted to alert status and continued walking toward the target. It was at this juncture that they saw four men on two motorcycles but they were unsure if they were enemies.

Then shots rang out again and they saw about 10 men firing on them.

Falling one by one

“We dropped on our bellies and started crawling out of their sight,” Malinao said.

As the firing continued, he said he watched helplessly as his colleagues fell one by one.

Balili said the first to be hit was 1st Lieutenant Colt Alsiyao, followed by 1st Lieutenant Vladimir Maninang. They soon died.

“The last time I heard of Sir Khe (2nd Lieutenant Jose Delfine) was that he was wounded,” he said of the other official killed in the battle.

Reinforcements came in 3 hours

Malinao said he heard on the radio that Khe was calling for reinforcements before he was hit.

But he said the reinforcements only came around 9 a.m., about three hours after they were under fire.

“If the reinforcements came earlier, many would have survived,” said Private First Class Jestoni Layson, machine gunner of the 13th SF.

“The difference in time between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. was very significant,” he added.

Balili agreed with Layson’s assessment but he also said that even if the reinforcements arrived earlier, they would still be helpless because of the sheer number of the rebels.

Besides, they were all under fire and had to fire back while grabbing the wounded ones, he said.

Layson said even his previous stint in Al-Barka failed to help him protect his colleagues.

Private First Class Tonny Rey Espinida, one of the two missing soldiers found alive, said everyone was trying to escape and withdraw from the encounter site while pulling their wounded comrades out of the firing line.

In his case, Espinida said he was separated from the group when he fell down the slope during the first firing.

“It was very dark. I followed a river downstream before I realized that I survived. I reached the SF detachment (on Wednesday),” Espinida said.

Fame and death

Private First Class Michael Natividad, another soldier who had gone missing, was found Thursday slumped by the shoreline near the site of the encounter alive but drenched and cold.

A military official Thursday showed Balili a copy of the Inquirer, which showed a photo of him being carried by a soldier.

“Boy, you have become a real hero,” the official said in jest. But Balili curtly replied: “Sir, I could be a hero but at what cost?”

Layson was visibly hurting from the death of his colleagues—especially his classmates in the scuba diving sessions.

Scheduled graduation

“Only 16 of us remain should our scheduled graduation (on October 22) push through,” he said.

Macario said all the 41 soldiers involved in the Al-Barka clash had been recovered—either dead or alive.

He said there were only eight soldiers who went missing at the height of the clash. “Two of them were found alive while the other six were all dead,” Macario said.

When will this shall end? So many lives have been sacrificed, so many homes were destoyed, families fleeing, children’s studies affected and forced to stop from so many years of fighting between Government forces and Mindanao Rebels. Someday, though not in the very near future, these fightings are going to end reaching the lasting peace that has eluded Mindanao for so many many years. For the meantime all i can offer is hope and prayers to the people of mindanao.