By Francis Wakefield
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) initially ruled out the possibility of ambush in the misencounter between the members of the Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion and the 8th Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
According to AFP Inspector General Lt. Gen. Rafael Valencia of the Joint AFP-PNP Board of Inquiry (BOI) based on their initial findings, they ruled out the possibility of ambush as what is circulating in the public for the elements of it were not present.
“Technically ang sabi ko lang kahapon (what I said yesterday) all the elements of an ambush are not present. But we still have to, point of view lang ng Army ‘yan, gusto nating maclarify (That’s the point of view of the Army, that we would like to clarify),” Valencia said.
“As of now, based on what I discussed to them kung pagbasehan ‘yung sa nakita namin dun, wala yun (If one will base on what we saw there, there are no) elements of ambush there. But it will be officially decided by the AFP and PNP BOI.”
“From what we have gathered from our side iyon ang nakikita namin (that’s what we are saying). Syempre, pag-upo namin with the PNP baka may mga iba silang document or pictures or facts na ano (When we sit down with the PNP maybe they have other documents or pictures or facts). But from our point of view yung mga (the) elements of ambush are not there as far as the data and information that are with us with the AFP BOI,” he added.
Considering the investigation is still in progress, they are still in the process of thorough evaluation of the data they gathered.
The Joint BOI on Saturday inspected the area in Sitio Lunoy, Barangay San Roque, Sta. Rita town, Samar where the unfortunate incident transpired.
They conducted their investigation for four days which involved actual site visit, reenactment, and interview to some pertinent personalities.
It was recalled that in the morning of June 25, an armed clash between the Army and the PNP troopers happened, that left six policemen dead and nine others wounded.
Earlier, it appears that there were different claims and statements from the involved parties that prompted the national leadership to create a Joint BOI to study and evaluate the historical data and facts of the operating units, including the testimonies made by the involved troops to ascertain the real score behind the incident.
He also appealed for patience as they tried to finalize the report the soonest possible time to immediately present their findings to President Rodrigo Duterte with high hope that this will shed light and soon close the issue, especially to the grieving families who are seeking for justice.
Valencia said they expect to come up with a report by Wednesday.
“Iyung BOI dapat may BOI report na kami by Wednesday, yun ang usapan namin ni Director Felix (of the PNP) nung nandun kami sa Tacloban (We expect to come out with a report by Wednesday, that’s what we talked about by Director Felix when we were in Tacloban),” he said.
“We will just be meeting with the PNP BOI para ifinalize namin yung report namin (in order to finalize our report),” he added.
Valencia also said the Joint BOI is also focusing its inquiry on the possible lapses on the aspect of observing proper protocol and coordination. In the process, it can serve as a basis to improve or establish a better mechanism on joint operations for both forces in order to avoid similar occurrence in the future.
The AFP and the PNP maintained a very harmonious relationship for the longest time. They formed a formidable team as dependable pillars of the government in the security sector that addresses security concerns and interest of the country.
For years, the capability and interoperability of both were proven, primarily in addressing local insurgency, secessionism, and threats of terrorism. The two had been conducting joint operations in the fight against internal threats and national crimes to promote better and peaceful community.
The most significant is the recent Marawi crisis wherein the AFP and the PNP worked side-by-side to successfully free the city against the occupation of Daesh-inspired terrorists.
The Army and the PNP considered the incident isolated and very unfortunate considering that there were lives that were sacrificed in the course of performing a common objective of protecting and bringing peace to the community.
Maj. Gen. Raul M. Farnacio, commander of the Army’s 8thInfantry Division, said, “amidst this challenge, the 8th ID hopes that the people will always have the same trust and confidence to their protectors.
“It is just that sometimes, things do happen beyond our control. He also reiterated his sincerest condolence to the families of the victims,” Farnacio said.
“The AFP in general, remains optimistic that the situation will be resolved immediately so that they can continue working and focus on matters that are more essential to the interest of the government and the country,” he added.