July 20, 2018, 2:23 pm
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6 cops killed by soldiers in mis-encounter in Samar

BY RAYMOND AFRICA AND VICTOR REYES

SIX policemen died yesterday while nine others were wounded when they were ambushed by soldiers while on a routine patrol in Sitio Lunoy, Barangay San Roque, Sta. Rita, Samar yesterday morning.

Reports reaching the Eastern Visayas Police Regional Office said members of the 1st platoon, 805th company of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 8 led by Chief Insp. Don Archie Suspene were returning to their home base when they were fired at. It was later learned that the attackers were soldiers from the Charlie Company of the 87th Infantry Battalion, 8th Infantry Division of the Army led by 1st Lt. Orlando Casipit Jr.

“It’s a mis-encounter. Initially naputukan yung pulis (the police were shot at),” said 8th ID commander Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio.

He said the soldiers were conducting operations when they apparently mistook the policemen as New People’s Army rebels.

“There was an unfortunate incident that transpired today where a platoon... that has been operating in the area for the last six days had a chance-encounter with a PNP unit in the area of Villareal, Samar,” he also said.

A police official from the Eastern Visayas said Suspene’s group, which was composed of around 30 men, were on a three-day combat mission in Barangay San Roque in Sta. Rita town in search for communist rebels and were returning to their home base in Sitio Canunay, also in Barangay San Roque, when they were ambushed.

The official said the policemen were passing through an open field when the incident happened at around 9:20 a.m. 

“Our troops are in full combat uniform when attacked so there is no need for them to have counter signs. We also don’t know of any grudge between the two groups. They do not know each other,” the official said.

“They (soldiers) suddenly opened fire without giving at least a warning or at least accost our men, that’s why they did not suffer any casualties,” the official added.

Reports said the firefight ended after 20 minutes when the soldiers were able to identify that they were firing at policemen.

The identities  of the slain policemen were withheld as their families have not been informed of the incident.

The wounded were brought to the Eastern Visayas Medical Center.

Farnacio said it is hard to distinguish “who you are up against” when soldiers are “in a highly-vegetated area.”

“There was a skirmish, meeting engagement actually, frontal (engagement). The ones who were quick to react fired the first shots. They were able to occupy the high ground,” Farnacio said of the soldiers.

“We are still conducting an investigation to determine how these two groups came close to each other,” he also said.

He said the two sides traded fire from a distance of about 30 to 50 meters. Farnacio described the incident as a “mis-encounter.”

He said he and Eastern Visayas regional police head Chief Supt. Mariel Maniego Magaway ordered a joint investigation.

“As we sincerely condole with the families of our brothers in the PNP, we assure the bereaved families that appropriate actions will be taken if there be any lapses committed in either side. This is to ensure that the incident will not happen again,” said Farnacio.
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