By Charmaine A. Tadalan and Camille A. Aguinaldo
THE House Committee on National Defense and Security will review the investigation by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) into what has been described as the Samar “misencounter” on Monday, June 25.
Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday that government troops hunting communist guerrillas in Sta. Rita, Samar, mistakenly killed six policemen and wounded nine other officers also on jungle patrol.
Two PNP ground commanders have since been relieved from their posts, according to PNP Chief Director-General Oscar D. Albayalde.
Committee vice-chairperson Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon said in a statement Wednesday, “The legislature will be awaiting the results of the findings of the investigation to make an evaluation if an inquiry in aid of legislation is necessary to provide legislative measures to prevent a recurrence of operational mishaps.”
“Standard operating procedures, rules of engagement and other measures are supposed to be in place precisely to avoid incidents such as this misencounter,” Mr. Biazon said.
He added: “Therefore it cannot be avoided that an inquiry should be conducted to determine what went wrong and if there is anyone that should be held accountable.”
Initial investigation by the AFP, as One News Philippines reported on Tuesday, showed failure in radio communication during the encounter. “We have procedures and mechanisms, pero kung nag-fail ang mechanism because of technicals, lalabas din yan sa investigation (But if the mechanism failed because of the technicals, that will come out of the investigation),” AFP Public Affairs Chief Noel J. Detoyato said.
The PNP, for its part, said it is looking into the level of coordination between the groups. “Kaya nga tinitingnan natin bakit nagyari ito kasi (That’s why we are looking into why this happened) with all the technology and the communication that we have now, dapat naiiwasan na ito (this should have been avoided),” Mr. Albayalde said.
For his part, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said the investigation should focus on preventing the incident from happening again.
In a text message to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said government resources were “unnecessarily wasted” in training the police officers involved in the incident.
“It is indeed unfortunate since it was not the first time it happened. Aside from the meaningless loss of human lives, government resources have been unnecessarily wasted in the recruitment and training of the PNP personnel concerned,” he said.
“Precisely, a joint AFP-PNP investigation team is now formed to conduct the probe, not so much to find fault as lapses in coordination should already be a foregone conclusion. The investigation therefore must focus on preventing any similar occurrences in the future and in other areas where troops from different units are simultaneously operating against local rebels and secessionists,” he added.