QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) allayed fears of possible whitewash in the ongoing investigation into the deadly misencounter between soldiers and policemen in Sta. Rita, Samar.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año assured that persons responsible in the incident will face appropriate charges and that they will implement measures to ensure no recurrence of a similar incident.
“We will institute measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future and identify the responsible commanders why this misencounter happened,” Año said.
On Wednesday, members of the Board of Inquiry (BOI) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) inspected the area in Sta. Rita where policemen and soldiers exchanged fire.
Surviving policemen also accompanied the group to re-enact and provide details of the incident.
Initial investigation showed that the nearest soldier who fired against the policemen was situated around 12 to 13 meters away based on the recovered bullet shells.
“Hindi na ganoon iyong original na itsura nung pwesto or yung level nung visibility… may part na medyo marerecognize mo may mga part kung saan narecover yung mga shells ay medyo hindi,” described PDir. Rolando Felix, the head of the BOI.
PO1 Arafat Abah, one of the survivors, said the military should have been able to identify them as they were wearing uniforms.
“Sobrang lapit lang. Diyan kami nakapwesto bago magsimula iyong putukan. Imposible iyon na hindi kami makilala kasi iyong iba iyong bandolier may nakalagay na police,” recalled Abah.
“Sumisigaw ako ng pantakot nalang din sa kabila na forward, forward, putok, putok, putok walang aalis dito lang kasi kapag umalis kami dun babakbakan lang kami. Parang ini-offer lang iyong mga sarili namin para patayin,” recalled another survivor, PO1 Orlando Guino.
Año believes such incident should have been avoided with all the modern devices that the armed forces are using on the ground.
Meanwhile, relatives of the slain cops are set to receive P500,000 cash assistance from President Rodrigo Duterte which is apart from the burial assistance, monthly pension and livelihood offered to the spouses of the victims as well as education scholarship to their children. – Raymond Octubre / Marje Pelayo