Monday, April 11, 2016

Funeral honors canceled for fallen soldiers in Basilan clash

From the Philippine Star (Apr 11): Funeral honors canceled for fallen soldiers in Basilan clash

Soldiers and families are dismayed that 18 soldiers killed in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan over the weekend were not given funeral honors before being sent home.

The Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) decided on Sunday to cancel the public viewing of the Pacquiao-Bradley fight at the camp gym so it could be used for the funeral honor and Mass vigil for the 18 fallen soldiers, but that was also canceled.

According to military sources, there was an order from the Department of National Defense and from higher headquarters to scrap the funeral honors and to instead to send the remains of the fallen troopers to their respective places of origin.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin visited Wesmincom Sunday but it is not clear who gave the order to cancel the funeral honors.

Reporters were also barred from taking videos and pictures and from conducting interviews at the private funeral parlor where the remains of 13 of the soldiers were brought.

The remains of the other soldiers were brought to the mosque inside the Wesmincom and then sent to their respective families for traditional Muslim burial rites.

Except for the remains of Lt. Remegio LiceƱa, a platoon leader whose remains were transported to Luzon on a military cargo plane, the bodies of the soldiers were brought home in military trucks.

“Parang hindi hero ang treatment sa aming mga kasama, ni walang funeral honors,” one of the soldiers said.

He said that the remains were also brought back from Basilan on a slow-moving transport ship.

“Kaya tuloy bloated na ang mga mukha at katawan ng mga patay dahil ang transport na barko ay halos hindi umuusad,” a soldier disclosed.

The soldier also said that prior to their deployment to Basilan, the military leadership already had an idea of the enemy's position.

“Bakit hindi na lang muna na-soften 'yong ground sa pamamagitan ng artillery bago isabak kami doon?” the soldier, who asked not to be named, said. “Kaya tuloy parang ginawa kaming mga target paper.”

The 44th IB, which came from Sulu weeks before the encounter in Basilan, had been forewarned that they were not allowed to die, the soldier said.

“Mabuti pa iyong isang opisyal, nagpayo sa amin na bawal ang mga sundalo mamatay dahil mahirap maiwan ang mga dependents... Mahirap makakuha ng benepisyo.”

The soldiers were reportedly on the way to a mission against a high-value target in Tipo-Tipo town when they were ambushed by more than 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters. Eighteen soldiers died in the encounter and more than 50 were wounded.

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