Army saddened over Surigao priest’s ‘baseless accusations’

The Philippine Army in Surigao del Sur on Thursday was saddened by the allegations of a Catholic priest to the unit, describing them as “baseless and unfounded, and are purely based on biases against the military”.

In a statement, the Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion said Fr. Raymond Montero Ambray claimed that the Army unit has tagged him as “harbinger of evil” and of having links with the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a social media account.

The allegations of Ambray, who is assigned in the town of Lingig, was published on an online news portal in Davao City on May 12. in the report, the priest also warned that the 36IB should be held accountable if he is killed.

Ambray based his allegations on a Facebook post by one Randy Alagaban.

However, 36IB said it did not know Alagaban nor did the military unit accused Ambray of any involvement with the communist rebel movement.

“We do not know the person, and if Fr. Ambray would make checks into our list, the 36th IB has no personnel bearing the name Randy D. Alagaban,” the Army said.

“The officers and personnel of the 36th Infantry “Valor” Battalion expressed sadness over an unfounded allegation made by a Catholic priest, by faulting the battalion of an act done by an individual or groups that are not associated with 36th IB or individuals known to its workforces,” the statement said.

The 36IB added that it is “unfair and painful on our side to be accused of such wrongdoing we never did, and as good soldiers of this country never will resort to such misconduct and transgression into the lives of the Filipino people”.

It also pointed out that the municipalities of Lingig and Lianga in Surigao del Sur are not part of their area of operation, as it covers only the Tandag City and the towns of Tago and San Miguel and the rest of the municipalities of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen, and Lanuza–collectively known as CarCanMadCarLan.

“Like Fr. Ambray, the men and women of 36th IB were also occupied during the lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and to protect the people of Surigao del Sur, particularly in the areas where we are assigned,” the unit said.

The Army unit also expressed apprehension that Ambray “hastily jumped into conclusion” and openly accused 36IB based on unverified information without the benefit of an investigation.

“The priest should have realized that certain government agencies now have the capacity to trace spurious social media accounts. He could have gone to the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), two agencies that are equipped with advanced instruments and manned by highly-trained personnel to trace persons behind sham social media accounts,” it said.

Following the allegations, 36IB appealed to the public, particularly residents in Surigao del Sur, not to believe Ambray’s claims.

“We are also assuring residents in the towns we serve of our continued support to the fight of the government against COVID-19. The 36th IB will also carry on with its mandate of securing communities and the people from the real threats and dangers posed by the terrorist NPA,” the Army unit said. (Alexander Lopez, PNA)

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