‘Forget about it’, Duterte tells cops and soldiers involved in Samar misencounter

TACLOBAN CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte, in a speech during the Sangyaw Festival in Tacloban City today, shared to the audience what he said to the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that he takes full responsibility on the “very unfortunate event” in Sta. Rita Samar on Monday, which led to the death of six policemen with nine others wounded, as the acting commander-in-chief of the two government armed groups.

“Sabi ko sa kanila, kalimutan na lang ninyo. Total, hindi naman sinasadya (I told them to forget about it. Anyway, it was unintentional),” Duterte said before reading his prepared speech. “If things can go wrong, it will go wrong,” Duterte stressed.

Duterte visited the wake of the slain cops at the police regional headquarters VIII and the remaining wounded cops at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) before attending the culmination program of the city’s Sangyaw Festival also attended by Bongbong and Imee Marcos.

In opposition to what the members of the Philippine Army claimed that they mistook the police officers as members of the red armed group New People’s Army as their clothes were already “muddy”, surviving police officers present during the incident said it was impossible for the other soldiers not to recognize they were police officials.

According to the PNP’s Board of Inquiry, the soldiers’ position was elevated compared to the position of the policemen who were taking a rest at that time. The distance between the two groups during the incident range from 12.5 to 30 meters. The BOI also see the heavy vegetation as one of the probable reasons why soldiers did not notice they were already throwing fire at the PNP team.

However, PO3 Jessie Escalo believe it was an ambush and not a misencounter. Family members of the five other slain policemen also seek for justice.

“Ang ako untang panawagan nga matagaan ug hustisya ang among nangamatay nga mga anak. Truth jud ang mu-prevail diha. Intentional ba yun ang ilang binuhat ba? (I am calling for justice for our sons who perished. The truth shall come out, should prevail there. Was it intentional?),” Evangeline Noromor, mother of PO1 Wyndell Noromor, decried.

Richiel Ebrado, wife of PO1 Edwin Ebrado, stressed that even if it was a misencounter, somebody has to be accountable to serve justice.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Joshua Sagdullas said in an interview that the authorities are trying to hide something to mask the negligence on the part of the government.

Meanwhile, 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army Major General Raul Farnacio temporarily dismissed 87th Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Arnel Floresca from his position.

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Eastern Vista

Eastern Vista is an alternative media organization in Eastern Visayas. Stories of people in the struggle for justice and aid after super typhoon Yolanda inspired its creation in 2014. Eastern Vista is also a co-producer of Lingganay han Kamatuoran, a Waray-based radio magazine program airing since 2003. From Eastern Philippines, Eastern Vista shares the news and views from a people rising.

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