Thursday, August 06, 2009

US military investigates allegations against its soldier in Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / August 6, 2009) – The US military on Thursday said it is investigating allegations against a serviceman accused of grave threats and physical injuries after a traffic altercation in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.

One of the victims, Mika Guanzon, said the soldier was drunk and pointed his gun at her early Wednesday after a heated argument in downtown Zamboanga, the Radio Mindanao Network reported.

She said the unnamed serviceman allegedly rammed his truck to the motorcycle they were using and injured her companion Don Henry Lim.

Police did not release the name of the soldier, but said the victims would file charges against the serviceman, who is part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force which is assisting the local military in fighting terrorism in the southern Philippines.

US Air Force Major John Hutcheson, director of Public Affairs of the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines, said they are investigating the allegations and is cooperating with the police.

“We are continuing our investigation into the allegations against one of our service members as a result of an auto incident early in the morning of August 5 in Zamboanga. We also continue to cooperate fully with the Philippine National Police in their investigation. These are serious allegations and we are doing everything possible to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident,” Hutcheson said.

”Any incident that distracts us from that mission is regrettable, and we will do everything we can to resolve it quickly and justly. If the allegations are substantiated, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken,” he added.

Hutcheson also did not release the name of the soldier and said: “Until we have gathered all of the facts surrounding the incident, we are not prepared to release a name to the news media.”

It was not the first time that US soldiers were dragged in scandals. Several years ago, a drunken US soldier also rammed his truck into a house and street pole in Zamboanga City and then fled the scene even before police could arrive to investigate the incident.

In 2007, US troops stationed in Sulu province forcibly closed down a government hospital in Panamao town.

Last year, a US soldier driving a jeep hit a man outside a military base in Zamboanga City and fled the scene before policemen could arrive to investigate. A teenager was also shot and seriously wounded by a US soldier while gathering firewood near a firing range in Zamboanga City.

US soldiers participating in previous military exercises with local troops in Zamboanga and Sulu also chased and detained journalists and prevented them from taking pictures and videos of the foreigners in public places.

Human rights groups also cited several cases involving US troops who participated in past joint military exercises with Filipino troops in Basilan and Sulu provinces. Among them the shooting of a Muslim villager, Buyung-Buyung Isnijal, by an American soldier identified by witnesses as a certain Sgt. Reggie Lane, who was accused of participating in a military operation on July 27, 2002 in Tuburan town in Basilan.

Militant groups also cited cases of shooting and maiming of civilians allegedly by US soldiers who accidentally fired at civilians in the community while on a test missions. One case was the shooting and wounding of Arsid Baharun in Zamboanga City while soldiers were conducting a marksmanship practice in 2004, and the second was in September 2006 where shrapnel from a misfired bomb hit a 50-year old Muslim woman, Bizma Juhan in Indanan town in Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner)

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