Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Army officer in Basilan fiasco

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 21): Army officer in Basilan fiasco
gets new assignment in WV

An Army officer who figured in the bungled operation in Basilan that killed 19 Special Forces soldiers in 2011, has been given another chance by the Philippine Army to command an infantry unit, this time the 61st Infantry Battalion in Western Visayas.

Lt. Col. Leonardo Peña took over the command of 61IB in Region 6, Monday exactly four years after the Al-Barka fiasco. He was then the commander of the 4th Special Forces Battalion assigned in Basilan.

But Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3rd Infantry Division commander, who presided over the transfer of 61IB command in Tapaz, Capiz, said the 3ID has its” full trust and confidence in Peña”.

“With his competence and extensive knowledge in development and security, I am confident that Lt. Col. Peña will meet or even exceed the expectations of the people in his area of responsibility in implementing the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan”, Guerrero.

In 2013, the military tribunal demoted Peña, then 4th SF Battalion commander, and banned him from handling a command for two years, after he was found guilty by a general court martial as a result of bungled operation against combined forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf bandits where 19 soldiers were killed.

The 4th SF Battalion is now commanded by Lt. Col. Eliglen Villaflor, a Negrense.

The Army's elite SF troopers were supposed to serve arrest warrants to some MILF members in Al Barka town, Basilan, but the rebels, who were reportedly backed by Abu Sayyaf bandits, waylaid the soldiers and fought back.

A graduate of the US Special Forces school in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Peña, who accepted the verdict, was quoted as saying in previous interviews that he had vowed to redeem himself.

During his assumption of the 61IB command, Peña, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1991, said he will pursue the best practices initiated by his predecessor. At the same time, he vowed to ensure that the gains in peace and development campaign of the 61IB will be sustained by working collectively and collaboratively with the stakeholders.

The 61IB was previously assigned in southern Negros.

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