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Samar misencounter: 2 cops sacked, troops disarmed

SHOT BY SOLDIERS PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde pins a medal on PO1 Romulo Cordero, one of the nine policemen wounded in a mistaken clash with soldiers in Samar province. —JOEY GABIETA

Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Albayalde has relieved the head of the Eastern Visayas Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) Supt. Glen Cinco and RMFB 805th Company commander Chief Insp. Don Suspeñe pending investigation into the mistaken clash between the PNP and soldiers on Monday, which resulted in the death of six policemen.

The 16 soldiers from the Army 87th Infantry “Hinirang” Battalion (IB) involved in the clash had been disarmed and their firearms subjected to ballistic tests, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Carlito Galvez told reporters in Palo, Leyte, where the PNP and AFP met to review protocols and plan ways to improve coordination.

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“Justice will be done,” Galvez said, adding that should the joint AFP-PNP probe found lapses on the part of Army officers, they would definitely be relieved.

Unfortunate, meaningless

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On Monday morning, six members of the Eastern Visayas RMFB were killed and nine others wounded in a mistaken clash with soldiers at Barangay San Roque, Sta. Rita town in Samar, with both sides mistaking the other for communist rebels.

There were no military casualties.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who used to head the PNP, decried the “unfortunate” and “meaningless” loss of lives in the 20-minute clash and said the investigation must now focus on measures to prevent a repeat of the mistake.

“Government resources have [also] been unnecessarily wasted in the recruitment and training of the PNP personnel concerned,” Lacson told reporters in a text message.

Military and police officials said 33 policemen from the 805th Company of the PNP-RMFB and 16 soldiers from the 87th IB were involved in the fighting.

The exchange of gunfire ended only after the soldiers were informed by headquarters about the mistake.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the House of Representatives would wait for the results of the investigation before deciding whether to conduct a legislative inquiry.

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“It is crucial that the investigative bodies created by the PNP and AFP be given a free hand,” Biazon said.

Biazon said standard operating procedures, rules of engagement and other measures were supposed to be in place to avoid clashes like that.

Those responsible for the clash should be prosecuted, he added.

“Whenever the lives of our men in uniform are lost in the performance of their duty, I cannot help but feel a sense of personal loss,” Biazon said. —WITH A REPORT FROM JEROME ANING

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TAGS: 805th Company, 87th Infantry Battalion, AFP, Carlito Galvez, Oscar Albayalde, Panfilo Lacson, PNP Regional Mobile Force Battalion, Samar misencounter
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