MANILA, Philippines–Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista is standing by the officers and men of the Army’s 1st Special Forces Battalion implicated in the bloody Quezon incident.
“Our direction is unity of effort with all security forces to address security issues. Our soldiers, they just do their job. As long as they (were) doing their job, there is nothing really to worry about because they did what they think was right,” Bautista said in a press conference Wednesday at the Defense Department.
Bautista declined to comment on the Philippine Daily Inquirer report that the Special Forces troopers have been offered to become state witnesses.
“I think the Justice Department and or the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) can answer that,” he said.
Bautista said the military is now reviewing the protocols followed by the soldiers when the Philippine National Police calls for augmentation force in its operations.
Bautista said the PNP’s notice of request, made by the team of Superintendent Hansel Marantan, was “under a tight time frame.”
“There was no time to study the situation. We are reviewing how we can have due diligence given time constraints. We want to be deliberate,” Bautista said.
Initial media reports said that there were 25 Special Forces troopers involved in the bloody clash between government security forces and an alleged group of gun-for-hire led by reported jueteng lord Victor “Vic” Siman in Atimonan town in Quezon province last Jan. 6.
However, Philippine Daily Inquirer sources said of the 25 soldiers, only around 14 were actually deployed to the checkpoint on Maharlika Highway, including Abang.
The rest were left at a police station in Quezon. Of Abang’s group, four others were stationed at the first checkpoint and did not participate in the shooting incident, one of the Inquirer sources said.
Siman and 12 others were killed in the clash. Only Marantan was injured from the side of the government security forces.