AFP panel on Basilan attack submits recommendations
- Jaime Laude () - December 9, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A military panel that investigated the possible accountability of senior Army officers for the deaths of 19 soldiers in an attack in Al-Barka, Basilan last Oct. 18 has submitted its final recommendations to outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr.

Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, AFP spokesman, said AFP Deputy Inspector General Crispin Mercado, head of the Court of Inquiry (COI), has forwarded the panel’s recommendations to Oban for proper action last Tuesday.

Oban convened the COI to find out if key officers of the Army’s Special Operations Command committed lapses in carrying out a military plan to go after Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Dan Laksaw Asnawi, Abu Sayyaf leader Furugi Indama and notorious kidnapper Long Malat.

“Gen. Oban will act on the recommendations before he retires (on Dec. 12). His action on the recommendations is final being the convening authority but he has to inform the Commander-in-Chief,” said Burgos, referring to President Aquino.

The COI came into the picture after the AFP Inspector General headed by Maj. Gen. Ireneo Espino completed its inquiry into the deaths of the 19 soldiers.

Some military insiders hinted that among the COI’s recommendations is to subject several officers directly involved in the supposedly bungled military operation to a military trial.

These officers, according to these insiders, belong to the elite Special Operations Command (Socom).

Relieved from their posts after the incident were Col. Alexander Macario, commander of Special Operations Task Force-Basilan, and Lt. Col. Leo Peña, commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion.

Also because of the Al-Barka incident, the fate of Socom commander Brig. Gen. Aminkadra Undug hangs in the balance.

Undug, a seasoned officer who cornered slain notorious Abu Sayyaf leader Ghalib Andang, alias Commander Robot, in Sulu years ago, himself conceived the military operation in Al-Barka.

“He passed it down to the lower unit for proper planning and execution. The operation had prior approval of higher authorities and was launched after an assurance from the MILF had been obtained that they would not make any moves that would hamper the operation,” one of the military insiders said.

This explained why the soldiers deployed in Al-Barka were only lightly armed, the insider said.

“There was treachery on the part of the MILF. They assured us that they would not move but when the operation was launched, they were there at the forefront to ambush our troops,” the insider said.

Both Macario and Peña earlier had expressed their willingness to submit themselves to a military trial, if only to clear their names.

They maintained that the Al-Barka operation was a well-planned military action to get Asnawi, an escapee from the Basilan provincial jail, as well as Indama and Malat.

The three were tagged as the brains behind the lawlessness in Basilan. Military assets had located them in Barangay Cambog in Al-Barka.

ABU SAYYAF AL-BARKA ALEXANDER MACARIO AMINKADRA UNDUG ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES ARNULFO MARCELO BURGOS BARANGAY CAMBOG BASILAN BOTH MACARIO AND PE MILITARY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND
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