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Officer in Lamitan siege named Western Visayas Army chief

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 02:46pm (Mla time) 03/20/2007

MANILA, Philippines — An Army general who figured in the bungled siege of Lamitan, Basilan in 2001 that resulted in the escape of cornered Abu Sayyaf bandits and their hostages has been named the new commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Western Visayas.

Major General Jovenal Narcise, formerly chief of staff of the Philippine Army, confirmed in a text message that he assumed his new post last March 15.

Narcise replaced Major General Victor Ibrado, who took over from retired major general Benito Ramos as chief of the Army’s elite Special Operations Command (Socom).

The Army inspector general, Major General Melchor Dilodilo, replaced Narcise as Army chief.

Defending Narcise’s appointment, Army spokesman Major Ernesto Torres said: “He has been acquitted in the [Lamitan] case.”

“He [Narcise] is qualified for the position based on seniority, and his experience as brigade commander…We trust the wisdom of the Board of Generals,” Torres said.

The Board of Generals is a top-level committee in the Armed Forces that recommends assignments.

As commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade, Narcise commanded a June 2001 dragnet around the Jose Torres Memorial hospital in Lamitan town where Abu Sayyaf fighters were holding hostages seized from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan province as well as hospital staff.

The bandits escaped with their hostages, among them American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham. At that time, the Army leadership called in reinforcements from Manila when troops were available in nearby Tuburan town.

“There was no evidence to prove that there was collusion between the military and the Abu Sayyaf,” Torres told reporters.

In his testimony before a congressional inquiry, Lamitan parish priest Cirilo Nacorda accused some military commanders of allowing the bandits to escape, allegedly in exchange for a cut of the ransom paid for the Abu Sayyaf hostages

Martin Burnham was killed a year after the Lamitan siege in a rescue operations by security forces. Gracia Burnham survived and in mid-2004 testified in court against her accused captors.

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2007-03-20T07:11:45+00:00UTC03bUTCTue, 20 Mar 2007 07:11:45 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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