The six Army soldiers tagged as suspects in the shooting of two civilians, and causing injuries to three others in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, were freed from police custody 9:20 last night, after the prescribed 36-hour period of detention lapsed.
Army Sgt. Zosimo Mariquit, PFCs Pat Lopez, Jhonryl Postrado, Franklin Delamor, Gerald Dator and Darrel June De Leon, all members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion, had been placed under police custody since Monday morning, following their involvement in a shooting incident in Purok Azucena, Brgy Banquerohan, Cadiz City.
Their firearms were endorsed to the PNP crime laboratory for ballistic tests.
Supt. Edel Jose Manzano, Cadiz City police chief, said they were forced to release the six Army soldiers, as they were not able to file charges against them due to lack of needed documents, including medical and death certificates of the victims, as well as results of the paraffin and ballistic tests and their firearms, respectively.
But Manzano said the families of the victims have agreed to press charges against the suspects through regular filing.
The fatalities in the shooting incident were identified as Mark Zarraga, 21, and Charice Solitario,15. Injured were tricycle driver J erry Mesa, 31, fishpond laborer Wilson Baliquidang, alias Nick Nick Baliquidang, and Michael Carampatana, 17.
Investigations of the Cadiz police showed that the six Army soldiers led by Mariquit, who were conducting Bayanihan Team Activities in the barangay, were about to leave the area, when their help was requested to check on the reported gun firing, with the suspects fleeing on board a tricycle.
The Army soldiers also on a tricycle, accompanied by barangay tanods, chased the fleeing suspects. However, they were allegedly fired at, and this prompted the soldiers to fire a warning shot.
When their warning shot was answered by another shot, Army soldiers were forced to return fire, which, unfortunately, claimed the lives of Zarraga and Solitario, and caused injuries to Mesa, Baliquidang and Carampatana.
An improvised hand gun with a live ammunition of an M-16 rifle in its chamber, four spent shells of an M-14 rifle, three empty shells of M-16 rifle and a pellet, were recovered from the scene of incident.
The Police Regional Office 18, through Senior Supt. William Señoron, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, yesterday extended financial help to Carampatana and Baliquidang, who are now being treated for gunshot wounds at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Regional Hospital in Bacolod City.
Señoron gave financial assistance of P10,000 each to Carampatana and Baliquidang, that were received by their mothers Pema Carampatana and Rita Baliquidang.
He added that the PRO 18 under Chief Supt. Conrado Capa will also extend similar financial assistance to the families of Zarraga and Solitario.
Lt. Col. Arnel Cabugon, 62IB commander, said they will also conduct a separate probe to get a clear picture of the incident.
But Cabugon said he will not tolerate any wrongdoings of his personnel, should it be proven that they have committed violations.
He added that they are now coordinating with the families of the victims and the concerned local government unit, on what assistance they can extend to them.
“Nobody wants this to happen. We also have families”, Cabugon said.
The Commission on Human Rights in Negros Occidental is slated to conduct its own probe.
As of now they cannot give any categorical statement yet as to the fault, or liability on the part of the Philippine Army, CHR provincial chief Romeo Baldevarona said.*GPB
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