Oct. 10, 1977 Patikul massacre recalled (Feature)

October 9, 2012 10:02 pm 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, Oct. 9 -– Also dubbed as “Double 10,” Oct. 10, 1977 was a day of infamy for the whole country when Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista, the soft-spoken commanding general of the First Infantry “Tabak” Division of the Philippine Army, and 34 of his men were brutally massacred after they were lured into a peace dialogue by local Muslim rebel leader Usman Sali in Patikul, Sulu.

Only one — a radio man who played possum or pretending to be dead — survived the mass killing.

Thirty-five years have passed but this reporter can still vividly recall that day when the earthshaking news about the massacre reached Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in suburban Quezon City.

The AFP’s rank and file could not believe that 35 soldiers, including a general and four Army colonels, were massacred in the Patikul public market just like that.

Martial law was still in effect then and defense reporters could not just write stories like that without clearance from the defense or military hierarchy.

But military authorities allowed defense reporters to write the story of the massacre, giving us all the information the media needed.

Retired Brig. Gen. Arnulfo D. Bañez, then AFP deputy chief of staff for intelligence (J2) and deputy of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP), now 88, could still remember the details of the gory massacre.

In an interview with the Philippines News Agency on Tuesday, the eve of the 35th anniversary of the Patikul massacre, Bańez said Gen. Romeo C. Espino, then AFP chief of staff, was shocked upon receiving the news of the massacre.

He said they were in Davao City for a regular inspection of troops when Espino was informed late in the afternoon of Oct. 10, 1977 about the massacre.

“Gen. Espino’s immediate reaction was to rush to Jolo, Sulu that very moment but Col. Tony Lukban, the pilot of the F-27 Fokker plane of the Philippine Air Force, told the general that the Jolo airport has no landing lights and suggested they fly early the following morning,” Bańez said.

Piecing together the massacre, Bañez, still witty and strong despite his age, said Sali, the rebel leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu, agreed to meet with Gen. Bautista originally at the headquarters of the Army’s First Infantry Division, for a peace dialogue together with 150 of Sali’s men.

But a last-minute decision was made by Sali and proposed to Gen. Bautista that they instead meet at the Patikul public market. Bautista agreed without second thought of any security threat from Sali. It proved fatal.

Bañez said that while Bautista and his group were on their way to Patikul, he saw Col. Pangilinan, the AFP adjutant general, his classmate who was conducting a seminar in Jolo.

Bautista told Pangilinan to join him in Patikul for a peace dialogue with MNLF commander Usman Sali.

In fact, Bautista earlier asked then Lt. Gen. Fidel V. Ramos, chief of the Philippine Constabulary and AFP vice chief of staff, who was in Jolo at that time, to join him but Ramos declined because he had a previous engagement in Zamboanga City.

Bañez said that “when Bautista and his men arrived at the Patikul public market aboard two 6×6 trucks in the morning of Oct. 10, 1977, the place was empty.”

“Normally, being a public market, the place is always full of people but this time not a shadow was seen,” he said.

“But still Gen. Bautista did not suspect any bad omen was going to happen,” Bañez said.

“Gen. Bautista went there to have peace with the rebels, no more, no less,” he added.

“However, it was weird that Usman Sali and his men did not show up,” he said.

“Then three to four men suddenly showed up as Bautista and his troops sat down on a long table waiting for Usman Sali,” Bañez said.

“All of a sudden, a burst of automatic gunfire reverberated all over the area and Gen. Bautista and his officers and men were killed instantly like sitting ducks, unaware of what hit them,” Bañez said with tears in his eyes.

“It was a bloodbath. Worse, Sali and his men hacked the already dead soldiers, including Gen. Bautista. The hapless soldiers sustained hack wounds all over their bodies. It was brutality of the first degree,” he said.

The current commanding general of the Philippine Army, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, was a plebe at the Philippine Military Academy when his father, Brig. Gen. Teodulfo Bautista was killed, together with 34 other soldiers in the infamous Patikul massacre at the height of the Moro rebellion in Mindanao.

The youthful Bautista then was devastated when he was informed about the tragic death of his father.

Although knowing a soldier could be killed in combat any time, he apparently did not expect the way his father and the other soldiers were mercilessly butchered when they were lured into a supposed “peace talk” with Usman Sali.

This writer was then covering the defense and military beat when the massacre was announced by then Defense Minister and now Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and then AFP chief Gen. Romeo C. Espino.

The government under then President Ferdinand E. Marcos was shocked about the massacre.

But despite the incident that befell on his family, the young Bautista continued his studies at PMA, the country’s premier military school, and placed seventh among 161 graduates in 1981.

Following the footstep of his father, the young Bautista distinguished himself as a well-round combat officer, having been assigned in insurgency-infested areas in the country.

Before he was named by President Benigno S. Aquino III as the 24th Army commanding general, Bautista was the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division based on Panay Island.

Though a combat officer and trained as a scout ranger, an Army elite unit whose mission is mostly to penetrate behind enemy lines, the young Bautista, like his fater, is a warrior with a soft heart when he formulated the AFP's new Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP), popularly known as “Bayanihan,” during his stint as AFP deputy chief of staff for operations (J3).

The plan involves innovative approaches and paradigm shifts in winning the peace in the government’s counter-insurgency program, stressing more in the implementation of livelihood projects in rebel-infested areas.This has resulted in the mass surrender of rebels.

When he was commander of the 3rd Army Division, Bautista personally carried out the implementation of the “Bayanihan” program in Western Visayas and partly Central Visayas, particularly Negros Oriental and Siquijor.

Bautista also commanded the famed 24th Infantry Battalion, the 7th Scout Ranger Company, 1st Scout Ranger Regiment, and served as platoon leader of the 26th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division. These assignments exposed him to various operational areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Bautista continued to excel academically, finishing at the top of his class in the following courses: Scout Ranger Course, Infantry Officer Advance Course, and the Army Command and General Staff Course.

He is also a graduate of the Joint & Combined Warfighting Course at the Joint Forces Staff College, Virginia, USA; the Grade II Staff and Tactics Course in New Zealand; Symposium on East Asian Security (SEAS), Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; and Security Sector Development at the Asia- Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu, Hawaii.

He also has a Master's Degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Bautista is a recipient of various awards and was seven times decorated in combat. His awards in the military include five Distinguished Service Stars, Gold Cross Medal for gallantry in action, Bronze Cross Medal for bravery, three Outstanding Achievement Medals, 29 Military Merit Medals, five of which were earned in combat, Military Commendation Medals and various Campaign Medals and Ribbons. (PNA)

SCS/RBC/UTB

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