Thursday, November 01, 2012

Court martial proceedings for 13 Army soldiers accused of Davao 'massacre'

The Army's 10th Infantry Division on Wednesday (October 31), announced that the soldiers who were accused of intentionally killing 3 civilians in an alleged firefight with bandit group, will face the Court Martial.

Quoting the report of Colonel Fidel Francis Pumihic, the head of the Board of Inquiry, 10th ID Spokesperson Lt Col. Lyndon Paniza said that patrol leader 1st Lt Dante Jimenez failed to determine the identities of the persons who took shelter in the hut where the incident took place on October 18, 2012.

He said that the troops claimed that they were met with fires while trying to approach the hut at around 6:00am.

"It was not a massacre but a legitimate encounter with the bandits. Our soldiers did not intentionally kill those unarmed civilians who happened to be with the group of bandit leader Capion," he said.

Paniza stressed that there were spent shells for 7.62mm and Cal .30 Rifles (not issued to the patrol members) in the bandit position.

Also, the soldiers seized a rifle grenade and two combat packs from the fleeing bandits.

Wanted person

Paniza also disclosed that Daguil Capion was a subject of manhunt operations for several criminal offenses including the killing of innocent civilians in the past.

He said that a local court issued an arrest warrant against Capion, prompting the latter to hide in the forests with some of his men.

He also said that Capion became wanted by government authorities because of his crimes and not due to his alleged 'anti-mining advocacy'.

"He was not an anti-mining advocate and in fact he earned money from a mining company which paid him fees as 'right of way' of part of his land that was used for mining operations," he said.

"He gained a decent livelihood due to this income (right of way fees) enabling him to establish a sari-sari store in Datal Biao village. His woes started when he killed three people some years ago," Paniza disclosed.

Rules of Engagement

Paniza said however,  that there were possible 'tactical lapses' that led to the deaths of Capion's family members who visited him in his forest lair.

"There was a lapse of judgment on the part of the Company Commander (Jimenez) for his failure to direct his men in accordance to the Rules of Engagement," said Paniza.

Quoting the BOI report, Paniza said:  "Jimenez said that he was 200-meters away from the hut where the encounter took place."

"He dispatched 6 soldiers to conduct reconnaissance to validate the reported presence of armed men, while he and 6 others remained in the security halt position to monitor the troops' movement."

"The soldiers said that they were fired upon while approaching the hut, triggering a brief firefight with the bandits," he said, quoting the statement of the soldiers.

Presumed innocent

Paniza also called on the  public to respect the right of the accused soldiers to be presumed innocent as provided by the Constitution.

He said that the soldiers must be allowed to defend themselves through a fair trial in a court of law.

"Like any other accused persons, our soldiers will be allowed to get their counsels who will defend them (soldiers) during the Court Martial proceedings,  in accordance to the due process of law," he said.

Due to the incident, the soldiers stand accused of several violations of the Articles of War including A.W. 76 (Misbehaviour before the enemy), A.W. 96 (Conduct Unbecoming of an Officer and Gentleman), and, Article of War 97 (Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline).

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