PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — ARMED Forces officials, citing an initial report, yesterday said the civilians killed in Maguindanao suffered bullet wounds from M-16 rifles, indicating they were not felled by military fire because the government fighter planes involved in the incident were equipped at that time with machineguns.
The initial report alleged the killer bullets came from Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.
The officials said they welcome any investigation into allegations that a bomb dropped by government forces in Datu Piang, Maguindanao Monday killed six innocent civilians.
AFP vice chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna said the investigation would reveal the truth as to “how these people, how these children got into that situation.”
Another official, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Major Arman Rico, said the bodies showed bullet wounds from M16 rifles, and these could not have been caused by a bombing run of a military plane.
Six people, including three children, were reported killed Monday when a bomb allegedly dropped by a military aircraft hit a motorized banca loaded with evacuees on a river in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang town.
The report said the victims were on their way to an evacuation site at Datu Piang.
In welcoming the probe ordered by President Macapagal-Arroyo, Luna said the military strictly adheres to the rules of engagement while in pursuit of MILF renegade members led by Umbra Kato alias Commander Kato in Central Mindanao and Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo in Lanao del Norte.
“We avoid collateral damage or civilian casualties as much as possible,” Luna said.
Rico said there was an encounter in Barangay Tee Datu Piang between the Philippine Army and the MILF under commanders Wahid Tondok and Badrudin Silongan an hour before the death of the civilians.
“The MILF fired at the military plane doing reconnaissance. The plane fired back using machineguns,” Rico said.
Luna added that the rebels withdrew on board motorized bancas and were spotted by military planes in the marshes of Barangay Tee.
He further said the pilots were forced to retaliate with machineguns after the rebels aboard the motorized boats fired at the military planes.
Acting on Malacañang orders, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno earlier ordered the Philippine National Police to investigate the reported killings of civilians.
Puno asked the police to investigate the story since it could probably be black propaganda by the MILF to discredit the Armed Forces in its pursuit operation against the MILF rebels who terrorized parts of Mindanao last month.
He said that if a powerful bomb really hit the victims as claimed by the MILF, the banca they were riding should have been totally destroyed as a result of the impact.
A report from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Regional Office said two Air Force OV-10 fighters conducted an aerial bombardment in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang town 10:30 a.m. Monday causing an undetermined casualties on the part of the MILF.
The ARMM report sent to Camp Came said that “unfortunately, two civilians were wounded identified as Bailyn Daya,10, and Guiamudin Daya,13.”
Both victims were taken to the Doctor Samama Clinic but Guiamludin Daya died while undergoing treatment, said the ARMM police report.
The same ARMM police report said three other civilians identified as Daya Manungal,48; Aida Mandi,36, who was pregnant, and one-year-old Falda Mandi, all residents of Barangay Dee, were also killed.