Pinpoint responsibility in Catanauan incident, Cmdr SOLCOM orders
by Col. Narciso R. Alamag
Camp Nakar, Lucena City (6 December) -- "Determine who is responsible", these were the marching orders of Comdr, SOLCOM, 04 December 2010 during the presentation of initial findings, "Briefing to the Media" conducted by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) at Camp Nakar Lucena City on the Catanuan incident last 01 December which left four civilians dead and one injured.
Col. Generoso L. Bolina, spokesperson of SOLCOM said that BOI was created by SOLCOM on 02 Dec to pinpoint who is responsible for the death of four civilians and the wounding of one other. The BOI is composed of and 8 Officers and enlisted men headed by COL Bobby Calleja, the Inspector General of 2nd Infantry Division.
On December 3, the board presented its initial findings to Lt Gen Roland M Detabali in front of media personalities both local and national at Officer Club House, Camp Gen Nakar, Lucena City.
Initial findings confirmed that the armed men involved in the incident were robbers and not communist rebels. "The three armed men are plain robbers", Col Bobby Calleja, head of BOI reported during the closed door briefing prior to the media presentation.
Col Bob Calleja further said that the government forces mistook the robbers as NPA rebels. The report contained that the text message relayed by Mulanay PNP to CO, 74th IB, Ltcol Dennis Perez stated that numbers of NPA rebels aboard the RR bus rammed the checkpoint set up by Mulanay MPS at about 1pm. Mulanay is the next town from San Francisco going to Municipality of Catanauan
"As the robbers boarded the bus from San Francisco Quezon at 1200 noon on December 1, they introduced themselves as NPA, "mga NPA kami" (we are NPA), Victorio Bido said, the bus driver. He further said that the armed men fired at the pursuing policemen.
"Someone held me and pointed a gun against my head, another one fired at the pursuing patrol cars. Then they fired at the government forces manning the Checkpoints set up in Mulanay and Bgy Ajos, Catanaunan, and fought it out with the troops as they scampered to escape after the bus rammed to the tree in Catanauan Quezon", driver added.
Dado Fortugaleza, 48 years old, one of the passengers, said that three armed men boarded the bus and declared "MGA NPA KAMI").
At 1:15 in the afternoon, the hot pursuit reached Brgy. Ajos, Catanauan, Quezon wherein the soldiers of the 74th IB together with one squad of Provincial Public safety Company established checkpoint. The armed men instructed the driver to evade the barricade as the bus swerved to the left along the dirt pavement and zigzagged back to the right until it rammed head-on to the tree as the bus skidded off the road. Three armed men hastily got off the bus as it fired to the police and the soldiers. Exchanges of fires ensued.
Unfortunately, the incident left four civilians dead. Said casualties were identified as follows: Joel Resureccion Cavanes, 36 yrs old, married, bus conductor and resident of Brgy 1 Catanauan, Quezon, Joey Pinavirde Pines, 45 yrs old, married and resident of Sitio Gapang, Mulanay, Quezon, Teodora Waje Tolentino of BRgy Hagakhakin, Gumaca, Quezon, and Cherry Gil Macalinao Maaliw, 23 yrs old, teacher and resident of Sampaloc 1 Sariaya, Quezon.
Also, one civilian passenger was injured in the incident identified as Donna Ramos; resident of San Narciso, Quezon; evacuated to Lucena City for prompt medical treatment.
Two suspects were arrested and identified as follows: Welmer Pimentel Alvazan alias MER, 30, married, native of San Francisco, Quezon, resident of So Talabis, Brgy. Ibabang Iyam, Lucena City, Dante Ramos Cada, 34; wounded; married, construction worker, native of Lucban, Quezon; resident of Purok Tulungan, Brgy. Ibabang Iyam, Lucena City; presently undergoing treatment at Catanauan, Dist Hospital, Catanauan, Quezon.
Two suspects are at large as follows: Alias Brando/Digs, reportedly resident of So Talabis, Brgy. Ibabang Iyam, Lucena City (escaped), Alias Michael was separated from the group and escaped while in San Francisco; He did not join the group on board the bus.
Lt Gen Detabali said to work hand and hand with the PNP as Joint Investigation Procedure. Separate investigation is being conducted by the PNP for filling of possible criminal case. "We will fully cooperate with the investigating authorities for possible criminal offenses, Detabali said.
Detabali furthered said that the result of the Violation of Engagement is yet to be determined. SOLCOM just have now the facts of the incident. He further expresses his deepest sympathy and condolence to the families and relatives of the fatalities of this very unfortunate event. Even more, financial assistance and funeral assistance were given to the victims. (201BDE Public Affairs Cell, PA/PIA Calabarzon) [top]