AFP speeds up court martial of 4 military officers over Basilan massacre
MANILA, Philippines—The General Court Martial (GCM) of four senior military officers over the Al Barka, Basilan massacre a year ago is being fast-tracked, an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman said Wednesday.
Nineteen Special Forces soldiers were killed last October 18, 2011 due to the encounter between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the AFP. Four senior military officers were relieved of their post due to “lapses” in the operation and are undergoing GCM.
“The GCM started hearings on May 22, 2012 and since then holds trial weekly to fast track the cases and expedite the proceedings,” Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, AFP spokesman said in a statement.
“The four separate cases are being tried jointly in view of common witnesses and pieces of evidence presented,” he added.
The Army Senior Officers accused are Colonel Aminkadra Undug, Colonel Alexander Macario, Lieutenant Colonel Orlando Edralin, and Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Peña.
The AFP had previously admitted lapses in the military operation that was headed by Pena. There had been no formal operation order and no authorization for the inclusion of several students from a scuba diving course in the operation, the AFP had told President Benigno Aquino III.
Reinforcements for the surrounded soldiers were not sent immediately due to lack of preparations for air and artillery support, the AFP’s report also said.
Undug and Macario are facing charges for violations of Articles of War (AW) 96 (Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer and a Gentleman) and AW 97 (Disorders and Neglects to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline).
Edralin has been charged with AW 97 while Pena faces violations of AW 96, AW 97, and AW 84 (Willful or Negligent Loss, Damage or Wrongful Disposition).
The GCM, headed by Brigadier General Teodoro Cirilo Torralba III, “has already completed presentation of pieces of evidences and witnesses,” Burgos said.
Oral arguments are set to begin Thursday, he added.
“The Prosecution has been able to complete the presentation of evidence against the accused and will be having an oral argument in the next scheduled trial for the Motions for Finding of Not Guilty filed by the defense,” Colonel Marian Aleido, Judge Advocate General, said in the statement.
“We are confident that, barring obstacles beyond our control, the case will be decided within the prescribed timeframe so that justice will be served to all,” Aleido added.
General Jessie Dellosa, AFP Chief of staff, reiterated his commitment to finish the case and deliver a judgement that will be impartial.
“The quest for justice takes a huge physical, financial, and emotional toll on all parties in the Al Barka incident and it would be of best interest to everyone concerned that the case will be rendered an impartial resolution at the soonest time possible,” Dellosa said.
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