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Pre-trial of 4 Army officers completed

MANILA, Philippines - The Army has completed its pre-trial investigation on four officers who are said to be liable for last year’s clash in Al-Barka, Basilan that left 19 soldiers dead.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said yesterday the investigators’ report is on its way to the desk of military chief Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa.

“According to the J1 (deputy chief of staff for personnel), the findings will soon be forwarded to Gen. Dellosa,” Burgos said in a phone interview.

He said Dellosa may receive the investigators’ findings as early as today. The pre-trial report may be made public next week.

In a separate interview, Dellosa confirmed that the findings of investigators would be reviewed soon.

Papunta na sa akin (The report will soon reach me). Based on the result of the (pre-trial investigation), we will determine if we are going to conduct a court martial,” he told reporters.

The pre-trial investigation was conducted by a team led by Lt. Col. Liberato Ramos, the Army’s deputy judge advocate-general.

Those who underwent the pre-trial were Col. Aminkadra Undog, former commander of the Army’s Special Forces Regiment (Airborne); Col. Orlando Edralin, former commander of the Special Forces Regiment’s Training School; Col. Alexander Macario, former chief of the Special Operations Task Force-Basilan; and Lt. Col. Leo Peña, former chief of the 4th Special Operations Battalion.

The pre-trial probe was conducted to determine whether the four officers had committed lapses that led to the bloody encounter in Al-Barka town last Oct. 18.

The four were relieved from their positions to allow them to face the accusations against them.

A court of inquiry formed last year to probe the incident recommended that the four be tried for violating Articles of War No. 97 or conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman in conjunction with Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code for acts of negligence.

Nineteen soldiers were killed and 14 others were wounded after state troops clashed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Sitio Baisung, Barangay Cambug in Al-Barka last Oct. 18.

The encounter happened despite the ongoing peace talks and ceasefire between the MILF and the government.
Soldiers who figured in the clash were supposed to serve a warrant of arrest on MILF commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi who was tagged in the killing of 14 Marines in Basilan in 2007, lawless element Long Malat, and Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama.

The MILF blamed the military for the clash, saying the state forces deliberately attacked its territory even without provocation.

The AFP, however, denied this, saying the clash happened four kilometers away from the MILF territory.

Ceasefire rules prohibit the military from entering MILF areas without proper coordination with the ceasefire panels.
President Aquino declared an “all-out justice” against lawless elements behind the incident.
The Philippine Star 
January 28, 2012 12:00 AM


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