ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The military yesterday denied it orchestrated last Tuesday’s ambush on the presidential security team in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesman for Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), branded as rumors the reports that there was no ambush on the advance team of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) and it was made to appear that the militant Maute group was behind the attack.
“What would it benefit our soldiers to do that kind of scenario? We will not hurt our nine soldiers to do such drama and that’s ridiculous,” Tan said.
Nine soldiers, including seven PSG members, were wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off, hitting the advance convoy of President Duterte in Marawi City last Tuesday.
Tan said the roadside IED attack was being investigated to determine the type of explosive used and which group was responsible.
Tan added no local officials in Marawi came out to deny that there was a bombing attempt.
There were reports circulating on the internet that the attack on the PSG was staged to justify the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or a prelude to the declaration of martial law.
A netizen in Marawi disputed the ambush reports. In his Facebook account, Drieza Abato Lininding claimed the explosion came from an accidental firing of an M203 grenade launcher from one of the troops in the convoy.
The netizen posted photos of the Army truck which appeared intact and undamaged, although it supposedly bore the brunt of the IED explosion and gunfire from the attackers.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla also disputed the claims that the attack in Marawi was staged.
Col. Generoso Ponyo, the Army’s 103rd deputy brigade commander, said there is an ongoing disinformation to mislead the public on what really happened.
“They are afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law. I talked with some sultans and ulamas and elders here… and that’s what they have told me,” Ponyo said.
Corporal Vincent Paniza, one of the PSG operatives wounded in the attack, said what happened was an ambush. He said the attack was sudden and swift, although he did not identify the supposed attackers.
“It was so sudden. Something exploded behind us, we don’t know what it was,” he said.
There were also gunshots heard, but Paniza said he was not able to fire back, only his fellow soldiers.
Private First Class James Gonzales said their convoy came from Iligan City en route to Marawi.
Gonzales said he was in the lead vehicle and when it negotiated the steep part of the road, they heard something go off.
“There was an explosion on the side of the road, and after that, they fired at us. We returned fire,” he said.
Gonzales said the soldier beside him was also wounded but they didn’t see who shot at them, as he also confirmed that it was an IED that exploded.
Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said six of the wounded were brought to Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City early yesterday.
“They were well taken care of by our attending physician,” he said.
He said the soldiers sustained shrapnel wounds, indicating that they came from an explosion.
Martinez said some of the soldiers had gunshot wounds and were airlifted from Marawi to a private hospital in Cagayan de Oro City.
Martinez said the 4ID is extending medical and augmentation support since the site of the clashes and incident happened outside its area of responsibility.
Local authorities, on the other hand, appealed for sobriety.
Chief Supt. Agripino Javier, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said critics should wait for the outcome of the final report by investigators on the incident.
“We just have to give probers enough time to determine what really happened. In the meantime we should avoid spreading stories that can only fuel uncertain and undue doubts,” ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said. – Jaime Laude, Gerry Lee-Gorit, John Unson
Philippines — Emotional Philippine National Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa cries over erring cops, November 23, 2016. Phil Star photo
Tags: Philippines, corruption, AFP, IED, improvised explosive device, human rights violations, Armed Forces of the Philippines, vigilantes, extrajudicial killings, martial law, Duterte, Ronald dela Rosa, Maute, Presidential Security Group, PSG, Marawi City, M203 grenade launcher, the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law