MANILA, Philippines – One of the officers tagged in the Al Barka bloodbath in October 2011 which led to the death of 19 of Army’s Special Forces soldiers was found guilty by the general court martial.
Colonel Jose Feliciano Loy Jr., a law member of the court martial, said that then Special Forces Regiment Airborne Commander Colonel Almikandra Undug was convicted “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” during a deliberation on January 8.
Undug, as a regiment commander, committed “imprudence without inappropriate clearance from higher headquarters and violation of chain of command by allowing the Military Scuba Diving Course students in actual operations on October 18, 2011 in Al- Barka, Basilan,” Loy told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview.
Undug was earlier cleared of other charges against him, including three specifications from Articles of War 96 (Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer and a Gentleman) and two specifications from AW 97 (Disorders and Neglects to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline).
As a result of a closed-door session and secret balloting with all the seven members of the court present, Undug will face admonition, reduced in ranking of 50 files below from his present seniority listing, and suspension from command and duty for six months effective January 8, Loy said.
Meanwhile, the commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Pena, is still presenting his pieces of evidence and will be on a hearing on January 26.
In October last year, the military tribunal has already cleared two officers –former Commandant of Special Forces School Lieutenant Colonel Orlando Edralin and former Commander of Special Operations Task Force Basilan Colonel Alexander Macario– for “insufficiency of evidence” for their involvement over the bungled military operations.
The series of hearings started May last year.
Nineteen elite soldiers were killed after they clashed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members in Al Barka town, Basilan on Oct. 18, 2011.
The soldiers were on their way to arrest Abu Sayyaf leaders Furuji Indama and Long Malat and MILF subcommander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, when they were ambushed by the rebels and turned into a day-long fight.