Wounded soldiers recount Marawi ambush

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – “It was so sudden. Something exploded behind us, we don’t know what it was.” 

This was the first account Corporal Vincent Paniza, one of the wounded Presidential Security Group (PSG) told of the Marawi City amush.

Paniza added he was unable to return fire during the attack.

Paniza's account, as well as those of Private First Class James Gonzales, were made following a visit by President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, November 30 to the medical facility they were placed in.

Duterte awarded the wounded soldiers medals for their service during his talk with them at the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) headquarters at Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Barangay Patag.

Gonzales, sharing his story, said their convoy came from Iligan City en route to Marawi.

Gonzales said he was in the lead vehicle, and when it negotiated the steep part of the road, they heard something go off.

“There was an explosion on the side of the road, and after that, they (armed men) fired at us. We returned fire,” he said.

Gonzales said the soldier beside him was also wounded but they didn’t see who shot at them. He also said it was an improvised explosive device (IED) that exploded.

Six of the 11 wounded soldiers were brought to the military camp here for treatment early Wednesday morning and are now in stable condition, an army official said.

Firefight

According to reports, government soldiers engaged in a firefight with members of a local terror group in Butig early this week, while personnel from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) were hurt in an incident in Marawi City on November 29.

Residents of the area, however, do not believe military and government reports that an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated along the main highway of Barangay Emie Punud, leading to a firefight between soldiers and alleged rebels on November 29. (READ: Ambush in Marawi City? Residents have doubts)

Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, a spokesperson of the Phil. Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said it was yet to be determined if the wounded troopers figured in a clash with armed men in Butig, Lanao del Sur. 

Martinez said the wounded soldiers, most of them members of the PSG, arrived at the 4ID headquarters in Camp Evangelista early Wednesday morning and were now in stable condition, recuperating at the military infirmary.

“They were well taken care of by our attending physician,” he told reporters in an interview inside Camp Evangelista Wednesday morning, referring to the 6 soldiers.

The confined soldiers, he explained, sustained shrapnel wounds. Those who were airlifted from Marawi and brought to a private hospital here Tuesday were said to have gunshot wounds.

According to the information provided by the 4ID, those who are confined at the military hospital are Corporal Vincent Paniza, Private Frist Class James Gonzales, Sergeant Jesus Garcia, Corporal Rodel Genova, Corporal Edward de Leon, and Staff Sergeant Eufrociho Payumo Jr.

Those who are at the Polymedic Plaza, meanwhile, are identified as Captain Reynaldo Zamora Jr., Corporal Joselito Gallentes, Sergeant Eric Ubalde, Private First Clas Fernando Corpuz, and Staff Sergeant Renie Damaso.

Martinez added the 4ID is extending medical and augmentation support as the site of the clashes and incident happened outside its area of responsibility, although the division has deployed two of its battalions from Caraga region to Sulu and Basilan to help fight the Abu Sayyaf.

Since there is no order from the military’s higher command, the 4ID’s job, Martinez said, is to ensure that the boundaries in Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon are secured and any movement of hostile groups are monitored. – Rappler.com