4 Army officers face court martial
Four senior Army officers are facing court martial for the massacre of 19 elite Army troops by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Al-Barka, Basilan, last October 18.
The four military officials, whose names have been withheld, will be charged with violations of Article of War 97, or conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline, as well as criminal negligence under Article 365 of the Revised Penal Code, according to military spokesperson Colonel Arnulfo Burgos Jr.
Newly retired General Eduardo Oban Jr. approved the recommendation of a court of inquiry to proceed to court martial of the four officials before he stepped down last Monday as military chief.
It is up to the new AFP chief, Lieutenant General Jessie Dellosa, to enforce the court martial process and ultimately to decide whether to approve the result.
The five-man court of inquiry headed by AFP deputy inspector general Commodore Crispin Mercado was formed by Oban last month to investigate what happened in Al-Barka.
Last October 18, 19 soldiers were brutally killed while 15 were wounded in an eight-hour gun battle with a large number of MILF rebels led by fugitive Laksaw Dan Asnawi in Al-Barka.
Most of the 41 troops that were deployed to the Al-Barka operation that day were fresh graduates from a Special Forces training course and were being deployed to Basilan for the first time.
The military said their troops were treacherously attacked four kilometers from the so-called MILF “area of temporary stay.”
The MILF countered that the soldiers had encroached into their area without coordination.
Amid the public outcry, President Benigno Aquino III resisted calls to call off the ceasefire with the Muslim rebels while vowing to pursue “all-out justice” for the slain soldiers.
According to Burgos, Oban had approved the recommendation of the court of inquiry last Saturday.