Battalion chief sacked after mistaken clash
The battalion commander of soldiers involved in the June 24 mistaken clash with police in a town in Samar province has been relieved of his post, according to the military.
Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio, 8th Infantry Division commander, on Thursday said he had removed Lt. Col. Arnel Floresca as head of the 87th Infantry Battalion (IB).
The soldiers who clashed with police in the town of Santa Rita, Samar, were under the command of Floresca.
In a phone interview, Farnacio said he removed Floresca as battalion head so “he cannot influence” the investigation now ongoing on the mistaken clash, which killed six policemen.
Soldiers belonging to the platoon that were involved in the clash had been recalled to their battalion for questioning, Farnacio said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police were conducting a joint investigation.
PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said the probe would focus mainly on coordination, or the lack of it, prior to the clash.
“Until what level did the coordination reach? What went wrong with the coordination?” Albayalde said of some of the questions that needed to be answered in the probe.
“If they coordinated, the AFP is already in control of the area for five days,” he said.
“Coordination should have reached the operating unit of the Army if there was proper coordination,” he added.
In a joint press conference on June 26, Farnacio and Chief Supt. Mariel Magaway, PNP Western Visayas director, said soldiers and policemen had been in the area of the clash days before.
At least 17 soldiers, led by 1st Lt. Orlando Casipit Jr., had been in the area six days prior to the clash, Farnacio said.
At least 33 policemen, belonging to the Regional Mobile Force Battalion, had been in the area for two days before the clash, according to Magaway.
The soldiers and policemen were there to carry out orders to hunt down a group of New People’s Army rebels.
The clash, according to Farnacio and Magaway, took place around 9:20 a.m. on June 24.
Farnacio said soldiers, positioned at an elevated part of the clash site, fired first and the policemen below returned fire.
Police reported the exchange of gunfire lasted for some 20 minutes but the Army said it was 30 minutes.
Soldiers, with the help of policemen who survived the gunfight, retrieved the slain policemen’s bodies and brought these to the village center of San Roque.
Transfer to Tacloban
The retrieval operation took about an hour, said Capt. Rommel Pulanco, operations chief of the 87th IB.
Wounded soldiers and the policemen’s corpses were taken to Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) in Tacloban City.
A hospital employee said the group of soldiers and policemen arrived at EVRMC past 1 p.m. of June 25.
The six dead policemen were transferred to St. Peter’s Funeral Homes, also in Tacloban City, for an autopsy.
On June 27, the remains were transferred to the gym of the regional headquarters of the PNP at Camp Ruperto Kangleon, Palo, Leyte province. —REPORTS FROM JEANETTE I. ANDRADE AND JOEY GABIETA
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