Army men killed in drinking spree?
- Roel Pareño () - April 10, 2007 - 12:00am
ZAMBOANGA CITY – A drunken soldier – not a civilian – went berserk early last Saturday in Sulu and killed eight soldiers and one civilian before he was shot dead by responding troops, according to a source in the military.

Armed forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. declined to comment on the shooting, citing an ongoing military investigation.

Two other civilians were also wounded in the shooting spree that occurred in a patrol base in Barangay Silangkan, Parang town.

A source in the military, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that the suspect was having a drinking bout with other soldiers of the 35th Infantry Battalion when a misunderstanding occurred.

The suspect, whose name was withheld pending the completion of the investigation, grabbed a submachine gun and strafed his fellow soldiers last Saturday before dawn.

Other soldiers rushed to the scene and shot the suspect in an exchange of gunfire.

"Apparently, the suspect had a drinking bout with some of the soldiers when a misunderstanding and heated argument occurred where the suspect got a rifle and fired at the rest of his companions," the source said.

Troops assigned to the patrol base in Parang town were pulled out the following day while an investigation by the 104th Army Brigade got underway.

"It was really an unwanted and nonsense incident but action must be done to prevent similar untoward incident among soldiers," the source added.

Esperon, meanwhile, said it was too early to tell what happened and has refused to make comments. "The investigation on the incident in Parang, Sulu is ongoing. At this time, we could not as yet pinpoint who started the shooting," he told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

He is expecting a report within the week. "We will have to wait for the results of the investigation," Esperon said. "The whole Charlie company of the 35th Battalion has been recalled to Bud Datu, their headquarters, so that everybody will be made available as we see the need to get everybody’s statement."

However, another source in the military gave a different story. He claimed that the lone civilian casualty was the gunman. He said the civilian was a local Muslim resident employed as a "striker" by the troops stationed there.

"A group of soldiers were having a drinking spree last Black Saturday. This group of soldiers invited their striker to join them but the latter refused," he said.

But the soldiers insisted and forced the civilian. "So he got angry, grabbed a gun and fired on everyone he saw," the source said. Drinking alcohol is taboo in Islam.

The region is also a known lair of the extremist Abu Sayyaf which has been the subject of a massive military manhunt for the past months.

The patrol base in Barangay Silangkan was put up by the Philippine Army to augment troops pursuing the Abu Sayyaf in the region.

Security in all military camps has been tightened following the attack to prevent similar incidents in the future.

It was earlier unclear if the gunman was a soldier or civilian because there was a power outage when the rampage began.

It was also suspected earlier that the shooting spree was an attack by extremist Abu Sayyaf guerrillas.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said shots rang out and troops from a nearby area rushed to the scene and found the nine soldiers and the unidentified civilian dead.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command as well as the local police are conducting separate investigations.

Sulu is historically known for the "sabil" or Muslim warriors committing frenzied suicidal attacks. They were also called juramentados by the Spanish colonialists.

The determined Muslim resistance prevented the Spanish conquistadors from colonizing Mindanao from the 1500s to 1800s. – with Jaime Laude

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