Army won't abandon men involved in Atimonan incident
MANILA - The Philippine Army will not abandon their men involved in the Atimonan incident, which the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) tagged as a rubout.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes said the 14 Special Forces officers acted in good faith when they responded to the police involved in the incident last January 6. He said they will be given legal assistance once the charges are filed.
"We will help them by providing the necessary legal assistance because their actions were according to procedure," said Coballes.
The 14 soldiers are from the elite 1st Special Forces Battalion, led by the battalion commander - Lt. Col. Monico Abang.
President Benigno Aquino III last week approved the recommendation to file multiple murder charges against the 14 and the 21 police personnel involved.
Coballes said, however, "They were requested by the police to go there (at the checkpoint). They went there, joined them (policemen), they were doing their part in good faith. That is the viewpoint of the Army.”
The legal assistance also means the Army intends to present their personnel if warrants for their arrest are issued.
"We will be abiding by the decision of the court," Coballes said.
He said they will not be separated from the military service unless they are found guilty of the charges. "We will remove them from service once convicted by the court," he said.
Meanwhile, the Army is also conducting a separate investigation to determine lapses in the operation.
Coballes said this will be purely internal to “enable us to correct [shortcomings].”