6th ID assures transparency on lumber smuggling probe PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 December 2013 13:15

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division on Tuesday assured to reveal to the public the result of the probe on the foiled attempt by soldiers to sneak out undocumented lumbers from Alamada town in North Cotabato last month using military trucks.

Major Gen. Romeo Gapuz, commander of 6th ID, told reporters they chose not to speak on the issue the past weeks so as not to complicate the separate investigations being initiated by a local Board of Inquiry (BOI) and the national headquarters of the Philippine Army.

The 6th ID is Central Mindanao’s largest Army unit, which covers the adjoining Maguindanao and Lana del Sur provinces, which are both inside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato, both in Region 12.

Gapuz, who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1981, was referring to last month’s bloody interception by the Alamada municipal police of 6th ID soldiers transporting two truckloads of Lawaan flitches from Alamada to  Midsayap town, also in North Cotabato.

Two soldiers escorting the lumbers, cut from timbers harvested without permit in a tropical rainforest in Alamada, were shot and wounded by policemen for refusing to disarm.

Gapuz has denied insinuations he was involved in the lumber smuggling attempt.

“I have never, in my whole life as an officer, issued an illegal order to my subordinates,” Gapuz said.

Gapuz said he is to retire from the military service in May next year and, by common sense thus, never  perpetrate an offense that could affect his ambition of bowing out from the military service untainted with any record of misbehavior.

He said the soldiers who figured in the alleged lumber smuggling attempt have been subjected to questioning by officers tasked to determine their culpability.

“We’ll just have to wait for the result of the investigation. I hope the people will not unduly conclude that our silence on the issue the past days was because we are trying to `whitewash’ the incident. We’ don’t do that,” Gapuz said.

Gapuz said soldiers, once charged with violating the Philippine Army’s code of conduct, are already assumed “guilty” and will have to prove their innocence in the proper military forum if they are to assert their right to due process.

“That’s virtually not the same with how civilian courts work, where the accused is presumed innocent, unless proven otherwise,” Gapuz said.

Gapuz said he will submit a report on the incident to North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino-Mendoza, who had earlier asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to investigate on the controversy and prosecute the culprits.