Army spokesman relieved for remarks over truce – source

The military has ordered the relief of the Army spokesman for saying the ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should be lifted to enable government forces to pursue the rebels behind the killing of 19 Special Forces soldiers in Basilan.

A source said Col. Antonio Parlade Jr. was ordered relieved after President Benigno Aquino III expressed his disgust over Parlade's pronouncements before the media last Thursday.

The President, who is also the military's commander in chief, presided a command conference with top military officials in Camp Aguinaldo on Friday over the Basilan incident and over the Oct 13 attacks staged by communist rebels against three mining firms in Surigao de Norte.

The Basilan debacle was a result of a military operation against a few fugitive MILF rebels and Abu Sayyaf bandits in Al-Barka town. When fighting broke out, the enemy strength increased to 400 men, outnumbering the 100-man group of soldiers.

Nineteen soldiers, including four officers, and seven enemies died in the fighting that lasted for more than 10 hours. Fourteen other soldiers were wounded.

"Col. Parlade was relieved. The President wanted him relieved. The President said that is the personal opinion of Col. Parlade because he is supposed to be a spokesman and he should go back to school... He said that if you are a spokesman you should not be saying those things," the source said.

Parlade reportedly told reporter that if he is going to be asked of his personal opinion, higher authorities should suspend the ceasefire with the MILF in Basilan, pursue the perpetrators and bring them to the bar of justice.

He said that the rebels should be punished because last Tuesday's incident was the eight or ninth similar attacks perpetrated by the MILF against government troops in recent years, adding that soldiers were angered and saddened by such actuation.

But amid calls to declare an all-out war against the MILF due to the incident, Aquino has insisted that peace negotiations must continue, saying that war won't do anything good to the situation in Mindanao.

A second official confirmed the relief of Parlade, adding that Parlade's deputy, Maj. Harold Cabunoc, may be named acting Army spokesman.

Meanwhile, a report on GMA News' Saksi Friday evening said two Army official were ordered sacked due to the deadly Basilan clash – Col. Parlade and Col. Alex Macario, head of the Special Operations Task Force Basilan.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz confirmed Friday afternoon said: "I have ordered the relief of Col. Macario, who will be replaced by Col. Ramon Yogyog effective October 21, after further inquiry shows operational lapses on his part." — LBG, GMA News

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