The Army has relieved the commander of the task force securing a gold and copper-rich area of Central Mindanao after his men shot dead the wife and two sons of a tribal leader, a military spokesman said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Noel Alexis Bravo was removed as commander of Task Force Kitaco three days after the Oct. 18 incident that killed B’laan tribeswoman Juvy Capion, 31, and her sons Pop, 13, and John, 8, said Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.

“We had to relieve him para ma-continue ‘yung activities doon, ‘yung mga engagement natin dun sa community… kasi mainit na masyado ‘yung mga relatives ng mga biktima,” Paniza said.

Bravo helmed Task Force Kitaco while commanding the 27th Infantry Battalion.

He was replaced by Capt. Joel Wayagwag as head of the 90-man task force, which was named after the towns of Kiblawan, Davao del Sur; Tampakan, South Cotabato; and Columbio, Sultan Kudarat.

The 27th IB, which Bravo still commands, will no longer have control over Task Force Kitaco, Paniza said.

“The task force will now be reporting directly to the 1002nd Brigade,” he said.

13 soldiers face court martial

At the same time, the 10th ID’s board of inquiry recommended that 13 soldiers directly involved in the incident face court martial proceedings.

Paniza identified the 13 as 1Lt. Dante Jimenez, Sgt. Dennis Murillo, Sgt. Rommel Ballenes, Cpl. Robert Godio, Cpl. Ayiha Namla, Cpl. Brucekhan Sahali, Cpl. Bashir Said, Cpl. Julah Majid, Cpl. Jemson Jadjuli, Pfc. Marlowe Gayamot, Pfc. Joel Lopez, Pfc. Darryl Tayamora, and Pfc. Richard Julian.

Jimenez led the team in checking the reported presence of armed men in Brgy. Kimlawis, Kiblawan.

The soldiers said they were fired upon, but Jimenez admitted failing to assess who they were facing, Paniza said, citing a report by the young officer.

It was “only after the incident” that the troops found they clashed with the armed group of Daguil Capion, whose wife Juvy and several children were also in the area, Paniza said.

The soldiers might have thought that they were facing members of the New People’s Army (NPA) because the communist rebel group has a team – the Sub-Regional Guerrilla Unit Far South – in the area, he said.

“Nung magpunta sila (soldiers) doon sa area, hindi talaga si Daguil Capion ang sadya nila… na-findout na lang nila na nandoon ang pamilya ni Capion after the incident,” Paniza said.

“There was a lapse of judgment on the [part of the] company commander, for he failed to direct his men in accordance to the rules of engagement,” Paniza said.

The regional military spokesman, however, maintained that the incident was a “legitimate encounter,” not a “massacre” as what several groups claim.

The board of inquiry requested the Army headquarters to convene a general court martial for Jimenez and the 12 others.

According to Paniza, the soldiers will be tried for violations of Articles of War 76 (Misbehavior before the Enemy), 96 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman), and 97 (Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline). (John Roson)

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