Soldier slain in Tantangan; land conflict eyed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 April) – A vacationing soldier was killed Monday night in an attack by unidentified armed men near his home at a farming village in Tantangan town in South Cotabato.

Police Officer 2 Jeffrey Jamillo, investigator of the Tantangan municipal police station, identified the victim as Army T/Sgt. Fernando Patria, 51, who was stationed at the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command in Camp Panacan, Davao City.

He said the victim was reportedly on his way home to Purok Maharlika, Barangay Poblacion in Tantangan at around 6 p.m. Monday when he was waylaid by about 20 armed men.

“He just finished overseeing the harvest at his palay farm when the attack came,” Jamillo said in the vernacular.

The police investigator said the victim died instantly due to multiple gunshot wounds.

He said they recovered from the scene several spent shells of M16 and M14 rifles as well as of a caliber .45 handgun.

Citing accounts from Patria’s farm helpers, Jamillo said the soldier was walking on a farm road towards his home when the suspects showed up and immediately fired at him.

He said it was not clear whether the victim was armed when he was attacked but witnesses said the incident happened fast and appeared to be well-planned.

Jamillo said they were initially looking at a long-drawn out land conflict in the area as behind the attack.

He said Patria’s farm had long been a subject of a land claim by a group of residents allegedly led by a certain Kumander Patotoy.

He said they were verifying reports that Kumander Patotoy led the ambush of Patria on Monday night.

“(But) we’re looking at all possible angles. We’re presently gathering more evidences, especially statements from witnesses, to shed more light on the case,” he said.

Jamillo added that the Tantangan police station immediately dispatched a police team to secure the place and help ease the tension caused by the attack. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)