August 25, 2001, Inquirer, Military could have delivered ransom, says Bukidnon solon, by Rocky Nazareno and Jonathan F. Ma, Inquirer News Service,
Posted: 11:57 PM (Manila Time)
Dominguez said the troops were not recalled from their posts but that he only called their commanders to a briefing.
He called for a briefing because an anti-terrorist unit had arrived and the commanders needed to be briefed on subsequent operations against the Abu Sayyaf.
"It is the word of a soldier against that of a priest. A priest cannot lie while soldiers can lie. Fr. Nacorda can't lie but he can be mistaken," he said.
Valenzuela Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo observed that "while the version of the AFP has several lapses, it is still not enough to prove that there was a deliberate attempt to allow the ASG to escape."
In an intriguing twist, a witness has reportedly submitted an affidavit to the committee testifying that Basilan governor Wahab Akbar and Lamitan mayor Inocente Ramos were inside the hospital when Abu Sayyaf bandits slipped through a military cordon last June 2.
The affidavit was one of the testimonies submitted to the committee when it held an executive session at the Claret School last Friday in Lamitan.
Congressional probers tried to piece together the mystery behind the escape of the Abu Sayyaf bandits in the afternoon of June 2 after they held a second hearing at the Basilan State College here Saturday.
At Saturday's hearing, Dominguez, Col. Jovenal Narcise, Major Eliseo Campued, Capt. Nicolas Quemado and Capt. Hubert Acierto told the members of the committee that they were "innocent" of the accusations leveled against them by Nacorda and several other witnesses.
Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General Diomedio Villanueva and Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling were also present at the hearing.
"Nacorda has no personal knowledge of the malicious accusations he has hurled against me. He was one kilometer away hiding in his church. There are no witnesses who can collaborate his accusations," Dominguez said.
He said his order to Narcise was "to assault (Jose Ma. Torres Hospital) before sundown."
"The next time we talk I want you inside the church," Dominguez recalled saying to Narcise.
He also insisted that he did not negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf for the release of three hostages, including businessman Reghis Romero.
Several witnesses, in Friday's executive session, claimed they saw an aide of Dominquez carrying a suitcase, allegedly containing ransom money, inside the Lamitan District Hospital. Dominguez also denied this allegation.
Narcise, who was the commander of the 103rd Infantry Brigade at the time of the incident, also denied the allegations hurled against him.
"My conscience is clear because I have nothing to hide, as soldiers we just did our job to the best of our abilities," Narcise told the INQUIRER.
Most of the blame for the bungled operation was centered on Narcise, the ground commander at the time of the incident. With reports from Inquirer wires