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VFA commission probes road mishap involving US soldier

/ 10:24 PM June 24, 2011

Zamboanga City—The Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement is now looking into Wednesday’s vehicular accident in Lamitan City, in which two civilians and a US soldier were involved.

The investigation came amid reports the US soldier involved refused police detention and was allegedly rude after he hit the victims.

Undersecretary Edilberto Adan, VFACom executive director, told reporters here Friday that what they knew was that the victims were given medical attention.

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“They have been taken care of, the injured passengers were brought to the hospital and they adequately received medical attention and everything is in order,” he said.

The two victims, Junaidin Mallatin, 19, village councilor of Kuh Lenuh in Albarka town and his brother Nadzmir, 14, were riding in tandem on a motorbike along Barangay Sengal in Lamitan City when sideswiped by a pickup truck being driven by Sgt. Joseph Brown on Wednesday morning.

SPO4 Ambruga Kalbi, investigator of the Lamitan City police office, said residents of Sengal village informed them about the accident.

“We rushed to the area and we found the two young males sprawled on the road,” Kalbi told the Inquirer by phone.

He said witnesses had told police investigators that they saw three vehicles bearing American soldiers running at a high speed toward Isabela City prior to the incident.

Kalbi said one of the vehicles, bearing license plates MIL-025 and was driven by Brown, overtook a passenger bus and encroached on the lane intended for motorcycles.

“When the driver overtook the bus, he narrowly missed the first motorbike, which fell into the ditch. But the pickup driver hit the next motorbike, being driven by Mallatin,” he said.

Kalbi said because of the impact, the Mallatin siblings were thrown several meters away from their motorbike.

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He said Brown refused to be detained and rejected police efforts to impound his vehicle.

Kalbi said charges for reckless imprudence resulting to double serious physical injuries were being readied against the US soldier.

He said the victims were initially brought to Alano Memorial Hospital in Lamitan City but they had to be transferred to Ciudad Medical here due to serious injuries.

Kalbi said the elder Mallatin has opened his eyes but Nadzmir has remained unconscious.

Adan said the VFACom investigation would be coordinated with the police.

“We have our procedures, there’ll be proper investigation by the police, we will see to it that any aggrieved party is answered and to the satisfaction of everybody,” Adan said.

But he said he was being “pressured.”

“I got calls from officials, who asked me to revise our investigation report. How could I do that? That was what the witnesses told us,” he said.

Kalbi begged off when asked who the officials were.

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command and Major Richard Anderson (not Andersen), the public affairs officer of Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines sent text messages on Wednesday about a motorbike hitting an SUV carrying US troops in Basilan, which contradicted the police report.

They also both sent text messages that said the US military personnel rendered first-aid assistance to the injured local males, contrary to the local police’s report the victims were sprawled on the road when policemen arrived at the site of the accident.

A source, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of his position, said none of the US soldiers present at the site of the accident provided initial medical attention to the victims.

“Filipino soldiers were the ones who brought the victims to the hospital,” the source said, adding the US soldiers were even rude to the local police.

Anderson would not say anything about Brown’s whereabouts but pledged cooperation in the investigation. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: joseph brown, news, Regions, vehicular accident, VFA
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