Why give an award to soldier pushed by Sueselbeck?
MANILA, Philippines – It was a huge deal that Technical Sergeant Mariano Pamittan did not violently react when Marc Sueselbeck, the fiance of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude, shoved him last week to get near the detention facility of Jennifer's alleged killer.
This was according to Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr, who presented the soldier with a plaque of recognition during the flag ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday, October 27.
In front of high-ranking defense officials and military officers, Pamittan was recognized for his "discipline and patience," "professionaism," and "exemplary composure under pressure when he was arrogantly shoved and debased by Sueselbeck in front of many people."
The drama in Camp Aguinaldo last week would have ended differently if the bemedalled Scout Ranger and veteran of wars in Mindanao fought back, the AFP chief of staff said. (WATCH: Jennifer Laude's fiance, sister climb military gate)
"Three cheers for Sergeant Pamittan. Hep, Hep!" Catapang cheered during the flag ceremony. "Hooray!" the other soldiers responded.
But the award, which was announced over the weekend, drew mixed reactions online. While there are those who welcomed it, others questioned if Pamittan deserved it when the military failed to prevent the Laude's sister Marilou and Sueselbeck from entering restricted areas.
Catapang defended the award on Monday.
An example in controlling emotions
Catapang said Pamittan is an example to other soldiers to keep their composure under extreme pressure. "If other people can't control their emotions, we want to show that soldiers can control their emotions even if they're facing a test like that," he said.
"If there is one thing that we are doing, it's only to emphasize that. If there' an audience for this purpose, it's the soldiers. Kahit gaano (no matter how) ka-difficult ang situation, they will have to do the order that was given to them," added Catapang.
Before his assignment in the Military Police, Pamittan fought wars in Mindanao. He belonged to the Scout Ranger company that raided the former Moro Islamic Liberation Front's Camp Abu Bakr in Maguindanao in 2000. But he would later earn his Bronze cross medal for helping in the capture of an Abu Sayyaf leader in Jolo, Sulu.
The award recognized Pamittan's "exemplary composure." "If you insult the soldier and even push him, that's embarrassing for us. We saw that he was not provoked. That was a huge deal. That is why we honor him," Catapang said.
Catapang has ordered the Judge Advocate General's Office (JAGO) to investigate how unauthorized personalities were able to enter restricted areas. It is up to the JAGO to see if the Military Police committed some lapses or if complaints will be filed against the intruders. (READ: Is lawyer Harry Roque to blame for actions of Laude sister, fiance in camp?)
But Catapang has cleared Pamittan of any lapses. He said the investigation will focus on the possible responsibility of those assigned to the outer security.
Pamittan was assinged at the compound between the 2nd and the 3rd gates going into the detention facility of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, the primary suspect in Laude's murder.
Rappler's video shows Pamittan appealed as Marilou, Laude's sister, climbed the 2nd gate.
"Bawal po, ma'am, baka mahulog kayo. Baka may mangyari sa iyo ma'am," he said. (That's not allowed ma'am. You might fall. Something might happen to you, ma'am.)
Pamittan blocked Marilou from further advancing while she begged to confront Pemberton. "Kuya, please. Hindi ko naman siya kayang galawin, Kuya. Siya kaya niyang pumatay. Gusto ko lang siya makita personal. Kuya, nakikiusap ako. Kung sa 'yo nangyari 'yan hindi lang ito gagawin mo," Marilou said, shouting.
(Sir, please. I can't hurt him anyway. Maybe him, he can could kill. I just want to see him for myself. Sir, I'm begging you. If this happened to you, you would've done more.)
Jennifer's fiancé, Sueselbeck, climbed the gate, too. When Pamittan tried to block him, Sueselbeck pushed him hard. Rappler's video show Pamittan admonished Sueselbeck, who appeared combative at first but later put both his hands on his back.
"Sinita ko lang po. Gusto ko lang po manigurado (I just confronted him. I wanted to be sure)," Pamittan told reporters on Monday. He said they were trained to exercise maximum tolerance. There was no way he could stop the two, he said, because they had already climbed the gate.
The October 22 drama in Camp Aguinaldo – hours after Pemberton was transfered to the military headquarters from an American ship docked in Subic – ended only after the media agreed to pull out and after camp commander Brigadier General Arthur Ang talked to Laude's family.
Action vs Sueselbeck
Catapang also defended the military's complaint against Sueselbeck, which prompted the Bureau of Immigration to declare him "undesirable alien" and to bar him from leaving the country.
"The mere fact na nakalapit na sila sa restricted area, dapat nakuntento na sila. Bakit kailanga pang akyatin ang bakod? Kung may kuryente ang bakod na 'yunh e di nakuryente pa siya? Sobra naman din ang nagawa. Dapat matuwa na kayo nakalapit na kayo, kasi restricted area na 'yun eh," added Catapang. – Rappler.com