August 8, 2001, Inquirer, Priest names general in Abu Sayyaf breakout, by Julie Alipala-Inot, Inquirer News Service, Posted: 11:05 PM (Manila Time)
LAMITAN, Basilan -- Catholic priest Cirilo Nacorda yesterday accused five officers of the Armed Forces of conniving with Abu Sayyaf hostage-takers, allowing the kidnappers to escape from a hospital compound here on June 2.
Nacorda identified the officials as Visayas Command chief Brig. Gen. Romeo Dominguez, the former 1st Tabak Division Commander; Col. Jovenal Narcise, the previous acting 103rd Army Brigade commander; two Narcise aides, Capt. Hubert Acierto and Capt. Nicolas Quemado; and the executive officer of the 18th Infantry Battalion Maj. Eliseo Campued.
Dominguez, in a phone interview, said Nacorda's allegation was "too much."
"I have been wanting to understand his traumatic experience last June 2, but this has gone far and I'm not going to take this sitting down," Dominguez said.
He plans to take legal action against the priest who "has not only destroyed my name," but his career and the reputation of his family.
On June 2, a group of Abu Sayyaf bandits and their hostages from Dos Palmas in Palawan were trapped overnight in the Don Jose Maria Torres Hospital here. But the kidnappers and selected hostages escaped by the back door of the hospital.
"Now I'm reserving my right to defend myself, my profession, my family through legal action," he added.
The INQUIRER tried but failed to reach the other four officers for comment.
Nacorda said "we no longer suspect, we already believe that there was connivance," referring to the alleged involvement of the military in the infamous escape of the Abu Sayyaf bandits who took over the St. Peter’s Church and the Don Jose Maria Torres Memorial Hospital a week after seizing a group of tourists in Palawan.
"We have strong and hard evidence. The people will talk and I am collecting sworn statements to prove this," Nacorda added.
According to the priest, around 4 p.m., June 2, soldiers belonging to the 55th Infantry Battalion and Scout Rangers detailed at the back of the hospital were reportedly ordered by an officer to vacate the area despite the pleas of local residents to stay.
Even police forces were pulled out, Nacorda said.
He said he learned from nurses and other hospital staff of the Lamitan Emergency Hospital that "they saw General Dominguez and Colonel Narcise bringing a black attaché case" full of 1,000-peso bills.
"In fact, Dominguez gave the hospital staff 5,000 pesos for snacks," he added.
Commanding officers were roundly castigated for allowing the kidnappers to escape that night, bringing extra hostages along with them, despite heavy military presence in the area.