The Armed Forces has approved court martial proceedings against four Army colonels being blamed for the deadly clash between soldiers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters in Al Barka, Basilan, in October.

AFP chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa approved Brig. Gen. Teodoro Cirilo Torralba III as head of the general court martial (GCM) that will hear cases of Col. Alexander Macario, Col. Amikandra Undog, Lt. Col. Leonardo Peña, and Lt. Col. Orlando Edralin.

The four are facing charges for alleged violations of Articles of War 84 (willful or negligent loss, damage, or wrongful disposition); 96 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman); and 97 (disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and military discipline).

Macario, Undog, Peña, and Edralin were removed as commanders of the Special Operations Task Force Basilan, Special Forces Regiment, 4th Special Forces Battalion, and Special Forces School, respectively, after the Oct. 18 clash.

Nineteen members of the 4th Special Forces Battalion and five MILF fighters were killed in the clash, which resulted from an operation aimed at arresting fugitive MILF and Abu Sayyaf members.

The operation was allegedly “not coordinated” with the MILF, with which the government has an ongoing ceasefire.

Following their relief, Macario, Undog, Peña, and Edralin were subjected to a pre-trial investigation and were recommended by AFP judge advocate general Brig. Gen. Gilberto Jose Roa to undergo court martial proceedings.

“Brigadier Gen. Roa viewed that all the charges and specifications against the respondent AFP officers should be referred for trial by GCM where all of their respective defenses could properly be ventilated in a full-blown trial. This is also due to the existence of a prima facie evidence against the respondents,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos said in a statement.

Joining Torralba, currently the senior military adviser of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, at the GCM are five Army colonels and an Air Force colonel.

Two more Army colonels were named “alternate members” of the court, where five officers of the Judge Advocate General Service (JAGS) will stand as law members and trial judge advocates.

Four officers of the JAGS, all ranked major, will stand as the military’s defense counsels.

“With the composition of the GCM already approved, the next step is the arraignment of all the accused military personnel in the said case before the military court,” Burgos said. (John Roson)

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