Three soldiers who were on their way to market to buy food stocks for their comrades were shot dead by still unidentified gunmen in Lanao del Norte on Thursday. A civilian who was also passing by was also hit by a stray bullet and died.
The slain soldiers were identified as Private First Class Albert Soriano, Corporal Bryan Binayug, and Corporal Albert Saura, all members of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion stationed at Tangclao detachment in Poona Piagapo town.
Meanwhile, the military has yet to release the identity of the lone civilian casualty.
A military report reaching Camp Aguinaldo said the soldiers were aboard a motorcycle and preparing to go to a community market when they were waylaid by an undetermined number of gunmen in the boundary of the municipalities of Poona Piagapo and Pantao Ragat at around 8:45 a.m.
The soldiers and the civilian died on the spot after sustaining multiple gunshots in their bodies, the report said.
Other bystanders immediately sought assistance from village officials who informed the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion about the shooting incident.
“[The] troops immediately responded and proceeded to the area to validate the information. Upon arrival, the responding team discovered four dead bodies with gunshot wounds,” said Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).
Lieutenant Colonel Domingo Dulay, commander of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said he immediately ordered a hot pursuit operation against the suspects.
The military is still facing a blank wall as to the motive behind the ambush.
But Major General Generoso Ponio, commander of the Joint Task Force ZamPeLan (Zamboanga Peninsula, Lanao provinces), expressed that the “terroristic act of victimizing [troops] including an innocent civilian is simply unacceptable.”
Further, Ponio committed to exhaust resources under his disposal for the immediate identification and neutralization of the suspects.
The bodies of Soriano, Binayug, and Saura were already being processed prior to their expected transfer to their families in Lingayen, Pangasinan; Solana, Cagayan Valley; and Maitum, Sarangani respectively.