FORT ANDRES BONIFACIO, Taguig City – An Army soldier was shot in the leg during a dialogue between personnel of Philippine Army Task Group Bantay (PATGB) and retired Technical Sergeant Proceso Casoy, an illegal settler at the Libingan ng mga Bayani 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Cpl Felipe Saldivar sustained a leg wound from a Caliber .45 pistol fired by Casoy who violently resented the presence of soldiers in his illegally constructed house located inside the memorial park reserved for fallen heroes.
Saldivar and was immediately brought to the Army General Hospital here for treatment. The attending military physicians have declared him out of danger.
Col Marcial O Constante Jr, the Commanding Officer of PATGB said that he sent a team of soldiers led by Lt Col Henry Fernandez to the house of Casoy, to negotiate the clearing operations affecting the latter's house at around 8:45am.
"My soldiers went there to negotiate with Casoy before his final eviction from the military reservation. Without any provocation, he fired his pistol, hitting Saldivar," he said.
Constante said that his soldiers did not retaliate but requested the presence of Taguig police to arrest the suspect. As of 1:00pm, the police was still negotiating for the surrender of Casoy.
"We are filing a criminal case of frustrated murder against Casoy for shooting my soldier. We are awaiting until he is finally arrested by the law enforcers," he added.
Constante said that Casoy is among those who illegally constructed their houses inside the memorial park known as the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
He said that the suspect used to serve as a member of Task Group Bantay, the unit that is tasked to protect the memorial park from professional land grabbers, including retired military personnel like Casoy.
"As a former member of TG Bantay in 2000, Casoy took advantage of his position just like his former superior officer in this unit who also constructed a house in this area. In addition, the area occupied by Casoy is a 'danger area' as this is within the flight path of the airplanes which land or take-off from the international airport just several hundred meters away," said Constante.
Casoy has invoked Republic Act 7279 which provides that 'underprivileged and homeless citizens should have access to land and housing, using this law in refusing to vacate the land'.
However, under the same law, those lands used for religious, charitable or educational purposes, cultural and historical sites, hospitals and health centers, and cemeteries or memorial parks are exempted from the coverage of the said Republic Act.
“The Libingan ng mga Bayani is a memorial park and a national shrine, therefore, it is not covered by RA 7279,” Constante said.
Constante said that Casoy has been given eviction notices when he was still in the service, even in 2011 during which he retired from the service.
"He consistently ignored these formal notices of eviction. Aside from that, we also offerred a staging area that he can temporarily occupy until he finds a new home," he said.
He also said that the TG Bantay also offered to assist Casoy in availing of the emergency land assistance from the Presidential Commission on Urban Poor.
Major Harold M Cabunoc, the Army Spokesperson, said that military personnel must serve as the best examples to others, especially in observing the laws of the land.
"We do not tolerate these land grabbers in the military organization who use their power and position for their selfish gains. Instead of squatting government lands, the soldiers can avail of the thousands of low-cost homes which are now offered by the President for soldiers and policemen all over the archipelago," he said.