Kiamba gives hero’s burial to soldier killed in Basilan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – An Army Special Forces sergeant who was among the 19 soldiers killed in last week’s carnage in Al Barka, Basilan was buried a hero on Wednesday in his hometown Kiamba, Sarangani province.

Sgt. Ronald Sta. Rita, team sergeant of the Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion, was given a hero’s burial Wednesday at the Kiamba cemetery in rites attended by close relatives, friends, Army officials and personnel, and local government officials.

Members of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, which is based in Maasim town in Sarangani, gave a 21-gun salute for Sta. Rita during the funeral rites.

At the requiem mass for Sta. Rita at the San Antonio de Padua Parish Church in Kiamba town, the provincial government of Sarangani presented a resolution passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan posthumously commending Sta. Rita’s “heroic” service to his town and province-mates as well as the entire country.

The resolution was personally handed over to Sta. Rita’s widow Rosalie by acting Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon and board members Elmer De Peralta and Cornelio Martinez Jr.

“The provincial government of Sarangani commends Sgt. Ronald G. Sta. Rita of the 4th Special Forces Battalion Philippine Army for the gallant service (he rendered) to the country and (for) fearlessly demonstrating exceptional courage and extraordinary determination during the 10-hour gun battle in Al-Barka, Basilan on October 18, 2011,” said boardmember Martinez.

Prior to his stint with the Army’s 4th Special Forces Battalion, Sta.  Rita had served in East Timor as part of the United Nations’ peacekeeping team.

Sta. Rita also served in his hometown during his early years in the Philippine Army.

Shane Sta. Rita, the eldest of the slain soldier’s three children, urged the government to ensure that  justice will be served to her father and the 18 other slain soldiers.

“The government should go all out in getting all those responsible for this senseless violence,” she said.

Calls have mounted for President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to declare an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) following the Al Barka incident, which left 19 soldiers dead and 10 others wounded but the President dismissed the calls and instead vowed “all-out justice.”

The military had said that the troops were pursuing criminal elements in the area but they clashed with MILF members. Lack of coordination with the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group had been blamed for the encounter.

Sta Rita was among the six soldiers who were reportedly captured and later executed by MILF and alleged Abu Sayyaf bandits.

Sta. Rita’s wife Rosalie said a man claiming to be an MILF commander called her up following the Al-Barka incident last week saying they had beheaded her husband.  Sta. Rita’s remains, his relatives said, bore hack wounds and signs of torture. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)