2 top military officials in Surigao del Norte sacked due to ‘serious lapses’
MANILA, Philippines—Two military officials were relieved from their posts after “serious lapses” were seen in their command which resulted to the attack on three mining firms in Surigao del Norte on Monday, Armed Forces Chief General Eduardo Oban said.
In a chance interview on Thursday at Camp Aguinaldo, Oban said he ordered the relief of 402nd brigade commander Colonel Rodrigo Diapana and his deputy, Colonel Cresente Maligmat.
“Definitely, nakakita tayo ng mga rason kung bakit nangyari yung sa Taganito (We saw reasons why this attack happened), definitely we see serious lapses on the ground,” Oban told reporters.
Oban did not elaborate what lapses they found but said the two officials will face investigations to determine whether there was negligence on their part.
“It is SOP (standard operating procedure) that an investigation will be undertaken immediately after a particular incident,” he added.
“We will have to wait for the investigation report but the fact remains that it happened in his area of responsibility,” Oban said of Diapana, who was to be replaced temporarily by Col. James Jacob, chief of staff of the 4th Infantry Division.
In a separate interview, Armed Forces spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos said 4th ID Adjutant Colonel Victor Gealan (not Jalan as earlier reported) will take over Maglimat’s post in acting capacity.
“They were relieved from their posts for operational oversight,” Burgos said without elaborating.
Burgos added the Board of Senior Officers will deliberate who will permanently replace the two relieved officers.
“The appointment of these two senior officers will ensure continuity in the pursuit operations being conducted by government troops against the New People’s Army bandits responsible for the attack of the three mining firms,” Burgos said.
He added that Eastern Mindanao Command Chief Lieutenant General Arthur Tabaquero will remain as the commander of the Joint Task Force Taganito, which is tasked to conduct pursuit operations against the NPA rebels.
“The situation in the area is stable and security forces have been enhanced for a safe and secure environment for the people in the area,” Burgos said.
In a separate interview, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Jose Mabanta Jr. said there was a lack of coordination between the security sector (which included the AFP and the Philippine National Police) and the other stakeholders in the area.
“There is still a lot of improvement that we need to do in terms of coordination among the various stakeholders,” Mabanta said.
Asked if there were intelligence reports about an imminent NPA attack on the three firms, he said: “It was not really a full report, but we knew these were critical areas where there was mismanagement in preparation.”
“Certainly there has been a security lapse… There may have been failure in intelligence,” Mabanta added.
On Tuesday, PNP Director General Nicanor A. Bartolome sacked three police officials in Surigao del Norte for failing to detect the movement of such a large formation of NPA rebels.
Relieved were Provincial Director Senior Superintendent Emmanuel Talento, Provincial Police Security Company commander Supt. Rudy Cuyop, and Claver municipal police station chief Senior Inspector Diomedes Cuadra.
Police said about 200 NPA rebels were involved in the coordinated attacks on three mine sites on the southern island of Mindanao, one of the country’s poorest regions but also home to vast mineral riches.
At one of the mines, run by Nickel Asia’s Taganito Mining, the rebels briefly took several employees hostage, before burning trucks, excavators and a guest house.
Another Nickel Asia-linked operation nearby and a mine run by Platinum Metals Group were also attacked, in what the NPA claimed was payback for years of alleged environmental damage and abuse by the firms.
Meanwhile, in a separate interview, 4th Infantry Division spokesman Major Eugenio Julio Osias IV said the troops encountered rebels in Gingoong City in Agusan del Norte but said they cannot yet determine whether these were part of the nearly 300-strong armed NPA bandits which attacked the mining firms.
Osias said they have been ordered to secure the areas of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte. With a report from Agence France-Presse.
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