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AFP findings on Basilan attack out this week

MANILA, Philippines - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) may issue this week the results of an investigation, which was conducted to determine the circumstances that led to the killing of 19 soldiers in Al-Barka, Basilan.

Col. Arnulfo Burgos, spokesman of the AFP, said that according to Maj. Gen. Ireneo Espino he may be able to finish the initial result of the investigation by the end of the week.

Burgos made the statement during an interview with ABS-CBN News as he denied a news report, which quotes a supposed initial findings of the military on its investigation into the soldiers' killing that the military operation in Sitio Bakisung, Barangay Cugman last October 18, was not authorized.

He added that based on initial reports, the Philippine Army's 4th Special Forces Battalion (SFB) that conducted the operation was authorized by Special Operations Task Force Basilan commander Col. Alexander Macario.

Macario and two other military officials, including the Army spokesman Antonio Parlade and 4th SFB commander Lt. Col. Leo Peña have been relieved from their posts pending the results of the inspector general's investigation.

"It is part of [Macario's] responsibility being the commander of the task force Basilan. It can authorize the conduct of operations within the island," Burgos said, adding that the rules on the authorization of operations by the military is included in the inquiry being conducted Espino.

Meanwhile, Burgos said that the military will not release a full report on the October 18 encounter.

"Not the full details... that is for internal consumption. We will be giving some of the results of the investigation," he said.

Military spokesman, including Parlade and Western Mindanao Command's Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, had said that the members of the SFB were pursuing a group of armed men led by Dan Laksam Asnawi, reportedly a deputy commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's 114th Base Command, when they were ambushed by an undetermined number of armed men in Sitio Bakisung.

The military initially announced that the troops were pursuing bandits and suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group. It had also said that during the encounter, the bandits were reinforced by their relatives, who happened to be members of the MILF.

The MILF leadership, however, claimed that all of the armed men encountered by the troops in the area are the separatist group's "mujahideen."

The MILF said that their fighters fired at the troops because they were already inside their group's area of temporary stay (ATS), an agreed designated area where the rebels can stay during military operations to avoid a misencounter.

The military, however, claimed that the troops' position was at least four kilometers away from the MILF group's ATS.

No coup

Meanwhile, Burgos also denied a news report, quoting Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, that there is a confirmed destabilization plot against President Benigno Aquino III because of his stand against proposals to suspend the ceasefire agreement with the MILF.

"In as far as the AFP is concerned, we have not received reports from the commanders within the chain of command that such there is such a thing," the military spokesman said.

"We have not seen an official report of the destabilization plot," repeated Burgos.

He also denied reports that troops are demoralized because of the encounter in Basilan and the series of attacks by the MILF in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Valte, in a separate interview with ABS-CBN News, also denied that she has confirmed the alleged destabilization plot against the administration.


The Philippine Star Updated October 25, 2011 04:15 PM


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