DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 1, 2009) – Police killed an army soldier who was tagged as one of two motorcycle gunmen who shot dead three people in an attack in the southern Filipino province of Davao del Norte.
The soldier, Corporal Arnold Toriano, shot a policeman and two other civilians Tuesday in the village of Tibal-og in Santo Tomas town. Toriano and his companion escaped, but they were pursued by policemen and engaged them in a running gun battle until the soldier was shot and killed.
Policemen were apparently unaware the slain gunman was a soldier until his unit arrived and clashed with the lawmen. The soldiers took the body of Toriano, a member of the 72nd Infantry Battalion and escaped.
It was not immediately known why Toriano killed the policeman and two other people and whether his companion was also a soldier or not. It was unknown if the soldier had anything to do with killings of many political activists and peasant leaders in the province. Militant groups have repeatedly accused soldiers as behind extrajudicial killings in Davao del Norte.
But Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, ordered an investigation into the involvement of Toriano in the killings and the clash between soldiers and policemen.
Mapagu assured that there will be no cover up in the investigation. He also relieved the commander of the 72nd Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Victor Tan and Toriano’s superior, First Lieutenant Heriberto Sangalang, while investigations are going on.
Sangalang led soldiers who took Toriano’s body and eventually clashed with the police. He claimed Toriano called up for back-up before he was killed and said gunmen engaged them in a firefight in the village of Tibal-og.
Sangalang said he was unaware that Toriano was being pursued by policemen for killing three people. “Lieutenant Sangalang, with the desire to provide assistance to the beleaguered Toriano, immediately organized a team composed of soldiers under 60th Infantry Battalion and rushed to the scene.”
“Lieutenant Sangalang, not aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident, took the cadaver of Corporal Toriano that led to a tense situation between the military and the policemen present in the area. The cadaver was brought to the headquarters of 60th Infantry Battalion based at Dona Andrea Asuncion town in Davao Del Norte,” an army spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Roland de Guzman, said.
De Guzman said all the soldiers who were involved in the clash with policemen had been apprehended and brought to the police headquarters for further investigations.
“Major General Mapagu also instructed the Inspector General of the 10th Infantry Division to conduct an investigation and look into the administrative liabilities of those involved as the Philippine National Police determines the soldiers’ criminal liabilities,” Bautista said.
He also quoted Mapagu as saying: “Despite my specific guidance of giving utmost importance to discipline and respect for human rights, there are still soldiers who deviate from this instruction resulting to negative perception of the public on the 10ID as a whole. I will not hesitate to discharge those involved if found guilty of violating the provisions under Articles of War.”
Since he assumed as division commander in February, Mapagu - who once headed the elite Scout Rangers - has discharged a total of 29 erring soldiers, including an infantryman who was implicated in a robbery case last month, and also demoted a dozen more for various offenses. (Mindanao Examiner)