By Rodolfo Andal
MAASIN City, Southern Leyte – Malacañang on Monday said the Duterte administration is bent on doing all it takes to ensure that the recent misencounter between government forces in Samar would not have a repeat.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr., in a press briefing held here, reiterated that President Rodrigo Duterte has “taken full responsibility for the incident.” He then assured families of the slain policemen that the government would provide them with all their needs while investigations are ongoing.
“Lahat naman po ng pupwedeng maibigay sa mga biktima nitong misencounter na ito ay ibibigay ng gobyerno,” Roque guaranteed.
“Kaya nga po inako na ‘yan ng Presidente para matigil na ‘yung sisihan sa panig ng Hukbong Sandatahan at sa panig ng Philippine National Police (PNP),” he added.
At the same time, Roque stressed that a proper investigation would still be conducted per the President’s order. This is to make sure that the blunders committed during the operation would not be repeated, he explained.
“Tuloy pa rin po ang imbestigasyon dahil ayaw natin na maulit ito,” the Spokesperson said, as he stressed the need for a closer coordination between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP particularly during combat operations.
Furthermore, Roque asserted that the administration sees no criminal intent on the part of the security forces, although the probe could reveal that there was indeed a complete lack of coordination.
“Tanggapin natin na walang gustong mangyari nito pero without prejudice to the final outcome of the investigation to be conducted by the Board of Inquiry (BOI),” he said.
Troops mistakenly killed six policemen and wounded nine others who they thought were communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas operating in the hinterlands of Sta. Rita in Samar province.
According to a report that appeared in the Philippine Star, the AFP said they are looking into operational lapses in last Monday’s bloody mistaken encounter.
Military officials said the initial findings indicate there was apparent miscommunication between troops and policemen in the area.
“We already have an established coordination every time they (Army and police) will operate. That has been the practice. There’s a radio message and text message,” said Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division based in Samar.
Meanwhile, Malacañang extended its condolences to the bereaved family of Tanauan City, Batangas Mayor Antonio Halili, who was shot dead by an unidentified gunman during a flag raising ceremony on Monday, July 2.
Secretary Roque said the Palace condemns any form of extrajudicial killing in the country and gave assurance that justice would be served to the family of the slain official.
“Kami po ay nakikiramay sa pamilya ni Tanauan Mayor Antonio Halili… Kinukundena po natin ang ganitong karahasan,” he stressed.
“Nangangako po ang Palasyo na bibigyan ng katarungan ang kanyang pagkamatay at magkakaroon po ng mabilisang imbestigasyon at paglilitiis doon sa mga tao na responsable sa pagpatay na ito,” Roque added.
Halili’s name is on Duterte’s narco-list and was thus deprived of police protection, prompting the mayor to express fears that he might be summarily executed by the police.
Meanwhile during the same press conference, Roque announces the inauguration of new Maasin Airport passenger terminal building of Maasin Airport in Southern Leyte.
“Good news po dito sa Maasin, ‘yung bago pong airport ng Maasin ay natapos na at na-inagurahan na po ngayong araw, July 2,” Secretary Roque said.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the new terminal building will upgrade the Maasin Airport from a community airport to a standard principal class 2 facility, with brand new facilities such as gang chairs, power, and water supply.
“We expect that the improvements can help address the increasing transport demands of the public,” Roque stressed.