Army to closely monitor discharged soldiers following Degamo assassination

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 7 March)—The Philippine Army will be closely watching soldiers with special skill sets that are highly sought after by criminal organizations following the assassination of Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.

Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., Philippine Army Chief. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army

Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a phone interview Monday that on top of their list to be closely monitored are those with “very specialized military skills” like snipers, special warfare operatives, and bomb experts so they would not fall into the hands of criminal syndicates once they are discharged from the service.

“For example, former EOD members will no longer be allowed to go out of the country without approval from the Army,” Brawner said. “We will be closely monitoring our discharged snipers and Scout Rangers, too,” he added.

Three of the suspects arrested by the police in Bayawan City in Negros Oriental following the killing of Degamo and eight others last Saturday were reportedly former soldiers with “special skills.”

The three were identified as former Army Sgt. Joric Garrido Labrador, who was dismissed in 2014 for alleged drug use; former Sgt. Joven Calibjo Javier, who went AWOL (absence without leave) in 2018; and former Corporal Benjie Rodriguez, a resident of Bonifacio, Misamis Occidental who was assigned at the Jolo-based Army 35th Infantry Battalion, who also went on AWOL.

Brawner said Labrador was trained as a Scout Ranger and assigned to the Military Intelligence Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro before he was discharged in 2014. Javier, the Army chief said, was a member of the elite Light Reaction Battalion who was among those trained by the United States military to fight terrorists.

He said all three, including Bonifacio, were “highly skilled military operators.”

A fourth suspect who was also arrested in Bayawan, identified as Osmundo Rivero, was also a former member of the Philippine Army who later became a taxi driver.

“It is tempting for them to use their skills since they no longer have a steady income,” Brawner noted.

He said the Army is now considering to provide trainings by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for the discharged soldiers similar to the program they had for retiring soldiers.

Brawner said that if possible, the Army will then hook up those who have undergone TESDA training to companies who might be interested in hiring them with their new skills. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)