The Philippine Star

‘Rody took responsibi­lity for misencount­er to end blame game’

- Alexis Romero, Delon Porcalla

In wanting to end the finger pointing over the alleged mistaken encounter between policemen and soldiers in Samar, President Duterte took full responsibi­lity for the incident, Malacañang said yesterday.

Six policemen died and nine others were hurt after they were fired upon by Army troops in Villarreal, Samar last week. The soldiers, members of the Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion, were sent to the area to respond to a presence of communist rebels report.

While authoritie­s are still investigat­ing whether the “misencount­er” was caused by a lack of coordinati­on, Duterte already took the blame for it, saying the “ultimate” fault is on him as commander-inchief of the armed forces.

“(It was) spoken like a true leader, the buck stops with him,” said presidenti­al spokesman Harry Roque in a text message.

He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) would coordinate closely with one another to prevent similar clashes.

“It’s an unfortunat­e incident which should not happen again. Closer coordinati­on can be expected between the AFP and the PNP in future ground combat operations,” the spokesman said.

Lt. Gen. Rafael Valencia of the joint AFP-PNP investigat­ion team said their initial findings ruled out the possibilit­y of an ambush, as earlier reported.

He appealed for patience as the team tries to finalize the report and present it to Duterte to shed light on the incident and close the issue, especially to the grieving families seeking justice.

The joint team, he added, is also focusing its inquiry on the possible lapses on observing the proper protocol and coordinati­on and is hoping to come up with a basis to improve or establish a better mechanism on joint operations for both the AFP and PNP to avoid a similar occurrence in the future.

In a statement, the Army’s 8th ID said the AFP and PNP have “maintained a very harmonious relationsh­ip for the longest time and formed a formidable team as dependable pillars of the government in the security sector that addresses security concerns and interest of the country.” It added that both the Army and the PNP considered the incident “isolated and very unfortunat­e.”

Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio, 8th ID commander, said his unit hopes “that the people will always have the same trust and confidence in their protectors.”

“It is just that sometimes, things do happen beyond our control,” he added.

Meanwhile, Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government, attributed the Samar incident to a case of “misidentif­ication.”

“Without prejudging the outcome of the inquiry into the incident, we are prepared to accept it as a case of friendly fire due to misidentif­ication,” Pimentel said. “Sadly, we still have hostilitie­s in the countrysid­e. And where there’s warfare, there’s always the peril of confusion on the ground.”

In a statement, Pimentel blamed the “fog of war” for the tragedy and called for a top-level “interopera­bility conference” between the AFP and the PNP. He said “improved force interopera­bility” on the ground would also enable police and military units to quickly seek reinforcem­ent from each other after obtaining clearance from their respective headquarte­rs.

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