The soldiers who pursued the rebels involved in the raid at the Philex Mining in Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, Saturday committed violations of standard operations that resulted to the death of five of their colleagues.
This was admitted by 303rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Jon Aying yesterday, who said that if the soldiers only followed the correct procedure in hot pursuit operations, the incident could have been prevented.
Aying said the army troopers were ambushed while pursuing the rebels even before the gunfight started. He vowed that they will not let similar incidents happen again.
"We were prepared for battle, only that in war, as in any game, sometimes you lose even if you think you are already winning", he said.
On Friday night, at least 30 suspected members of the New People's Army burned two bunk houses of Philex Mining, a Kubota tractor with drilling machine and one generator set, a computer set, ICOM radio and personal belongings in Sitio Umas, Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay.
The following day, members of the 47th Infantry Battalion conducted a pursuit operation at about 7:40 a.m., but, were ambushed, Aying said.
The ambush resulted in the death of Pvt. Benjie Tolog, 26, of Kabankalan City and PFC Jan Granzo,27, of Himamaylan City, in Negros Occidental; PFC Charlie Magne Jomento, 23, of Jaro, Iloilo City; Pvt. Ramer Aguilario, 25, of Passi City, Iloilo; and their team leader Cpl. Aljun Francisco,33, of New Aklan, Glan, South Cotabato.
It also caused injuries to Cpl. Jovimar Latiza, 29, of Mambusao, Capiz; and PFC Romel Agustino, 25, of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat, Aying also said.
But, for Negros Occidental Provincial Police officer-in charge Senior Supt. Ricardo de la Paz, the incident in Sipalay City perpetrated by the members of the southern front of the Komiteng Rehiyon Negros, was a form of retaliation.
"They could be retaliating because the army and the police had successively arrested high-ranking rebel officers", de la Paz said.
He added that it is possible that there were also casualties on the rebels' side as there were traces of blood in their escape routes.
De la Paz added that their investigation showed that the rebels used the burning of the bunker house at the mining company as a bait so government forces would respond and they could be ambushed.
Former Gen. Raymundo Jarque advised Aying to examine the tactical errors of the army in the Sipalay incident and make a checklist based on the things they learned from their ambush and counter-ambush subject when they were in training.
Jarque, who was in the military service for 33 years, said that, before conducting the pursuit operation, they should have examined the map and the terrain of the area.
He said that if the rebels burned several equipment owned by Philex mining, then must be something wrong.
Jarque added that the government and the NPA should settle the issue of insurgency at a negotiating table because war can create more enemies.*APN