The remains of five Army soldiers who were killed in a shooting rampage last Saturday inside the Camp Edilberto Evangelista were sent home Monday afternoon.
Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner, attended the ceremonial send-off for the fallen soldiers, all members of the Service Support Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division.
The lone suspect, Pvt. Johmar Villabito, allegedly shot the victims at point blank range in the head inside their barracks last February 11.
According to Maj. Francisco Garello, spokesman of the 4th ID, the body of the 37-year-old Villabito, of Libongan, North Cotabato was laid at the Camp Evangelista’s Mortuary. “His remains were separated from his victims,” Garello said.
Villabito’s reportedly shot dead Sgt. Rogelio Rojo Jr, of Iligan City, Cpl. Bernard Rodrigo of Cagayan de Oro City, Pfc. Prince Kevin Balaba of Lanao del Norte, and Pvt. Joseph Tamayo of Surigao del Norte.
Villabito was killed by responding soldiers, among them SSgt. Braulio Macalos Jr. who was also wounded in the incident and is now recovering at Camp Evangelista Station Hospital.
“Currently, the Philippine flag at 4ID is on half-mast as a symbol of the Command’s grief with the loss of our soldiers. This is also in honor and recognition of the services and sacrifices of the said fallen soldiers,” Garello said.
Brawner assured the victim’s families that all necessary assistance would be provided including benefits and other claims.
“I extended my sympathies and consoled the fallen soldiers’ bereaved families and gave immediate financial assistance,” Brawner said.
Garello however said Villabito’s kin will not receive any benefits, save the funeral assistance and under the Command Welfare Assistance Fund.
“We also came here to assess the situation and uplift the morale of 4ID personnel, especially those in the Service Support Battalion where the involved soldiers were assigned,” Brawner added.
4ID commander Maj. Gen. Wilbur Mamawag has also offered immediate financial assistance to the families of the five slain troopers, and ordered the creation of a board of inquiry for a speedy probe of the incident.
“Measures were put in place for the prevention of the same incident in the future,” Mamawag added.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, in a text message to the Manila Standard, said that he will donate P30,000 in financial assistance to the slain troopers.
“I’ve message Maj. Gen. Mamawang and informed him of the assistance,” said Rodriguez, a former chairman of the 4ID Multisectoral advisory board.