Saturday, September 29, 2012

Army Officer Recalls Ambush: 'Permission to Die, Sir'

August 24, 2001, Inquirer, Army officer recalls ambush: 'Permission to die, sir', by Rocky Nazareno,
Inquirer News Service, Posted: 10:47 PM (Manila Time)

Bloody ambush

LAMITAN, Basilan--"One was killed instantly while two others even asked my permission to die."

Saying his men were honorable to the end, Army Scout Ranger Capt. Ruben Ginulbay on Friday recounted to the House committee on national defense how three of his men perished in an ambush by Abu Sayyaf bandits right in front of St. Peter’s church here last June 2.

Ginulbay was identified by Lamitan parish priest Fr. Cirilo Nacorda as the officer who admitted to him that he and his company of 70 mostly unarmed soldiers were used as "bait" for waiting Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Nacorda also led the committee in retracing the escape route of the bandits, which led to a small gate at the back of the Jose Ma. Torres hospital, which the Abu Sayyaf had taken over on the night of June 1.

"It is so narrow and too low that even a small contingent waiting outside could pick out anybody who tried to get out," said a civilian volunteer.

In a four-page affidavit, Nacorda said Ginulbay approached him on June 3, "shook my hand very tightly, gripped my shoulder and started to weep."

"Since I am not used to seeing a soldier cry, and an officer at that, I realized that this man must be in deep trouble and that he must have (had) some serious problems," Nacorda told the 17 congressmen who conducted the hearing at the jampacked Claret School here.

"Father, they used us as bait," Nacorda quoted Ginulbay as telling him.

But Ginulbay "clarified" Nacorda's account and said that "60 of my men had their individual rifles with them and it was only my 10 gunners who did not have their machine guns with them."

He also issued a "rebuttal" to Nacorda's claim that they were dispatched to Lamitan specifically to resolve the Abu Sayyaf hostage crisis.

"We were still on administrative mission when we arrived in Lamitan because we still had no orders on a particular mission," he told the committee.

But Ginulbay looked back in disgust to that pre-dawn ambush which, he said, "could have been turned around had we had our regular firearms."

"We would have even been able to overrun the church (if we had complete firearms)," said the Philippine Military Academy (Class 1994) graduate.

Only barking dogs could have given a semblance of resistance to escaping Abu Sayyaf bandits, said residents of "Veterans Drive," a dirt road which fleeing ASG bandits took after emerging from the lone iron door that was the hospital's back exit.

They escaped in the afternoon of June 2.

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