Pintakasi claims lives of 19 soldiers in Basilan

THE images of soldiers squirming in pain and those of their fallen comrades started pouring out of television only late last night.  A friend, a Special Forces official in Basilan, was obviously shaken as all he could initially say as I asked what happened was a repetitive.

“Grabe….Grabe….Na-wallop kami….” He said he barely escaped death  when he had to leave Al Barka for a mission before his company’s encounter with MILF guerillas which immediately claimed the lives of 13 of his comrades, four of whom are officers, at dawn yesterday.

As of press time, 11 troops are wounded in action and 6 of the 10 soldiers initially reported as missing in action are confirmed dead, bringing the death toll on the part of the military to 19.

“Pintakasi ang nangyari sa amin,” says the official. “Pintakasi” is described as the  symbiotic relationship between armed Muslim groups in Basilan, and between these armed groups and the populace who are mostly their own relatives. Pintakasi is used for various reasons.

For instance,residents of a particular “community camp” would take advantage of the presence of military troops on regular patrol and taunt them to engage in a firefight.

It might do the company or platoon leader good if he ignores the taunt because an escalation of the hostilities might result in collateral damage, which is almost always the case in Basilan encounters, as the MILF is quick to accuse the military of violating the ceasefire agreement for “intruding” into MILF areas. The ceasefire agreement prohibits government forces from conducting operations inside MILF areas without prior coordination.

In yesterday’s encounter in Al Barka, my source insists the area is not a recognized MILF camp, and that the MILF has always used this alleged “intrusion” as an excuse to kill soldiers.

There is an urgent need for the military to orient their officers on the Pintakasi theory that has claimed many lives of its officers and enlisted personnel.

Condolences to the family of the late 1Lt Colt G. Alsiyao, 1Lt Frank Junder P. Caminos, 1Lt Vladimir A. Maninang (PMA CL2007), and 2Lt Jose Delfin E. Khe (PMA CL2010), and the 14 enlisted fighting troops in Basilan.

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