Soldiers yet to return looted items to Zambo resident
MANILA, Philippines – It has cast a shadow on the military's celebration of soldiers' heroism in the Zamboanga City standoff. At the height of the crisis, 5 soldiers were caught looting an abandoned house in the combat zone.
Victim Vicente "Bebot" Guingona has recovered the stolen rifles, ammunition, fancy bracelets, coins, and certifications from the Western Mindanao Command, the military camp based in Zamboanga City. But he told Rappler he's still waiting for the soldiers to return other items such as his wife's jewelry.
"It was the Army who ransacked me and the Marines who reported the incident. I was not the only one who was ransacked," Guingona told Rappler. He is the uncle of Zamboanga City Councilor BG Guingona.
Marines officers were the ones who reported the soldiers behind the looting incident. They were supposedly able to take a video of the soldiers trying to open a safety box although Guingona said he did not see the video.
The alleged looting happened on September 20, in the second week of the standoff, in Barangay Sta Catalina. The residents were forced to evacuate because it was one of the barangays where Moro National Liberation Front fighters led by Commander Habier Malik were holed up. (READ: Habier Malik is 'obviously' dead)
The soldiers were immediately detained inside Wesmincom and later transferred to the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
Wrapping up probe
President Benigno Aquino III honored on Monday, 12 officers and 6 enlisted personnel for their heroism in Zamboanga City. They are among the first batches of awardees. (READ: First to respond, last to leave and The heroes of Zamboanga: Lessons)
While the AFP is deliberating possible recipients of the Medal of Valor – the highest recognition a soldier can receive in his career – the Army's Provost Marshal Office is currently wrapping up the investigation on the looting incident.
"The alleged actions of the 5 do not represent the thousands of AFP members who fought valiantly in Zamboanga. They are undergoing the proceedings. We will give them due process," said AFP spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.
The Provost Marshal Office will make the recommendations to Army chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes on whether or not the soldiers will face court martial.
"It's still under investigation. Witnesses are still being talked to and evidence are being collected," said Coballes.
Area under government control
Guingona cooperated with Wesmincom when the investigation was conducted in Zamboanga. He recently received a request from the Army's Provost Marshall Office to submit his testimonial evidence. He said he is completing his affidavit.
Guingona maintained that his residence was located in a block that was under government control. Only the soldiers could have been behind the looting, he said.
That the Wesmincom returned to him some of the items was a "prima facie evidence" that the soldiers were behind the looting, he added.
Coballes said they cannot release the names of the soldiers until the verdict is out.
Guingona said he is no longer filing cases against the soldiers before the regular courts. "The Armed Forces of the Philippines is already investigating them. I trust they know what is the appropriate punishment for them," he said. – Rappler.com