Learning from the Past: The Fallen 14

As I examined the events that led to the deaths of the members of Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (SAF) in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao last January 25 2015,  I remembered the story of Lt. Vicente Alagar and his men who were treacherously attacked by Moros more than 80 years ago. The law enforcers too, were going after two criminals, when they were ambushed by more than seventy Moro warriors.  I leave it to the readers to give a conclusion:

A young Moro  named Abdullah, was arrested and charged with the crime of murder in the Court of First Instance of Sulu for the violent death of another Moro named Janapia or Hanapia.  He was convicted of the crime and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua and was ordered to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the sum of P1,000. 

Abdullah, after having succeeded in obtaining his provisional release prior to the promulgation of his sentence due to the bond filed by his kin and friends, jumped bail and went into hiding.  On the advice of Panglima Agga, the municipal Mayor of the district of Panamao, and of his uncle named Sakam and others, whose good offices were sought by  Panglima Agga and by Captain Leon Angeles of the Constabulary,  Abdullah finally surrendered.  His sentence was read to him, and he was sent to San Ramon Penal Colony to serve it.

Sakam, Abdullah’s uncle, resented the imposition of the prison sentence upon Abdullah and the sending of the latter to the penal colony. His followers and kinsmen Imam Ibbah, Hassan, Imam Tantali and Mahamud, supported him and all agreed to organize themselves in order to avenge what they believed to be an injustice committed against Abdullah.

Sakam, Imam Tantali, Imam Ibbah, and their relatives and followers agreed to kill all those who they believed were responsible for Abdullah’s prosecution and incarceration, and at the  top of their list were the members of the constabulary detachment stationed in Sulu.  During their last gathering,  The angry Moros, who are Mohammedans, said their prayers in order to take courage upon the grim task they set themselves to do.  Their leaders, Sakam and Imam Ibbah, expressly swore before their Koran to shed their blood for Abdullah.  

On the afternoon of October 8, 1932, while Lieutenant Vicente T. Alagar of the constabulary was in the house of the Municipal Mayor, Panglima Agga, he stated, perhaps imprudently, in the presence of Hadji Abdurajak and Mahamud, followers of Sakam and Imam Tantali and of the other Moro chief or leader Moro Imam Ibbah, that he would start the following day for the barrio of Tayungan which adjoined those of Puhugan and Bud Kan Asali of the municipal district of Panamao, Sulu, for the purpose of searching for Moros Naduha and Masihul who were charged with robbery.

Hadji Abdurajak and Mahamud returned to their barrio with this information for the purpose of transmitting it to Sakam, Imam Ibbah and to all their men. It was through this means that the vengeful moro leaders knew the movement of the constabulary soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Alagar.

On the morning of the following day, October 9, 1932,  lieutenant Alagar with twenty-three well armed soldiers under his command left his station of Seit Lake, Sulu, for the barrio of Tayungan, not only for the purpose of searching for Naduha and Masihul but also of patrolling that vicinity. Upon arriving at the foot of Bud Kan Asali mountain he and his soldiers stopped for a short rest.

As soon as Sakam, Imam Tantali, Imam Ibbah and their followers learned of the presence of the constabulary soldiers in their barrio, they gathered their men together and went to meet the latter. The soldiers soon became aware of the hostile and defiant attitude of the Moros who were about seventy in number, for they carried kampilans, kris and spears.  Lieutenant Alagar who undoubtedly wished to avoid an encounter which he had not gone to look for, addressed the  Moros and said loudly: “Here is your friend, the lieutenant.” Sakam, Imam Ibbah, Imam Tantali, Illing and several krismen  approached him.

It was Imam Ibbah who went nearest Lieutenant Alagar and, feigning that he had no intention to harm the officer or his men, he stretch out his hand to Lieutenant Alagar and the two shook hands.  Lieutenant Alagar took advantage of the occasion to tell Imam Ibbah and his men to leave the place, to which Imam Ibbah replied that they would do so if he (Lieutenant Alagar) ordered his soldiers to put down their arms.

This took place after the Moro leaders, one of whom was  Sakam, asked the soldiers if they wanted to fight, to which Lieutenant Alagar answered in the negative and in order to show the Moros that he was in fact not hostile to them, he ordered his soldiers to put down their arms giving them the command “Order arms.”  

While the constabulary soldiers were put at ease and unprepared, Sakam and Imam Tantali and all their men threw themselves upon Lt. Alagar,   The Moro,  Illing threw the first spear severely wounding Lieutenant Alagar.  During that sudden and treacherous attack, Lieutenant Alagar was covered with spear and bolo wounds and his head was severed from his body, both head and body having been found at different places about eight arms length from each other, sergeants Felipe Dasmariñas and Felix Habalo, corporals Estanislao Ticyican, Lope Cerena, and Domingo Cardinez, and privates Jose Lawagan, Elias Eugenio, Pedro Garcia, Primo Oraye, Aurelio Hijastro, Jose Lagarde, Marcelino Aguirre and Julio Doctolero lost their lives.  The bodies of the latter soldiers received multiple wounds on different parts of the body. Nine soldiers were badly wounded, but only three were fit enough to return to their camp.

Captain Leon Angeles of the Constabulary, upon being informed of the incident, immediately went to the scene of the encounter with various constabulary soldiers under his command and in the battle between him and his soldiers, on one side, and the Moros who had attacked and killed Lieutenant Alagar and his men, on the other, Moros Mahamud, Julaid, Rahis, Haman, Taraman, Mohamad Ali, Mahud, Ismula, Illing and about 11 women perished.

Afterwards,  Sakam, Imam Tantali and their men, who had dispersed after their encounter with Captain Angeles and his soldiers, were not left in peace and the constabulary soldiers and other peace officers kept mobilizing themselves to capture them and exact from them a reckoning for their act. Pressed continuously on all sides and seeing that all their efforts to hide from the constituted authorities and offer resistance to the agents thereof were in vain, they decided to surrender one after another with the arms which they took from the bodies of the constabulary soldiers who died in the encounter of October 9, 1932.

Sakam and Imam Tantali surrendered to Captain Leon Angeles on May 13, 1933, and on said date of their surrender, charges for sedition were filed against them and their kinsmen. Later, on June 29, 1933, another information was filed against them for multiple murder. 

After the trial, the court rendered the judgment and sentenced Sakam to death and Imam Tantali and the rest of their kinsmen responsible for the deaths of the constabulary officers to reclusion perpetua.

During the Constabulary’s campaign to avenge the deaths of Lt. Alagar and his men, the Moros lost more than 50 of their fighters.

We will remember the fallen, Lest we forget.

1.)  Lt. Vicente Alagar

2.)  Sgt. Felipe Dasmariñas

3.)  Sgt. Felix Habalo

4.)  Cpl.  Estanislao Ticyican

5.)  Cpl.  Lope Cerena

6.)  Cpl.  Domingo Cardinez

7.)  Pvt. Jose Lawagan

8.)  Pvt. Elias Eugenio

9.)  Pvt. Pedro Garcia

10.) Pvt. Primo Oraye

11.) Pvt. Aurelio Hijastro

12.) Pvt. Jose Lagarde

13.) Pvt. Marcelino Aguirre

14.) Pvt. Julio Doctolero

About 1Lt. Vicente Garcia Alagar:

Vicente Alagar was born in Vigan, Ilocus Sur on April 5, 1896 to the late Adelaida Garcia and Pedro Alagar. He was married to the former Ramiro of Iligan, Lanao (now Iligan City) with whom he was blessed with four children: Edyritha, Mariano (deceased), Orlando and Henrietta.

He finished his elementary education in Vigan Central School in 1911. Passed the entrance to and graduated from the Philippine Constabulary Academy (now Philippine Military Academy) in 1919 and was immediately commissioned as 3rd Lieutenant. With his first assignment in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. Later, he was transferred as Commnading Officer of the 95th Philippine Constabulary Company in Camp Keithly, Dansaian, Lanao (now Camp Amai Pakpak, Marawi City). He served in various military campaigns against Moro outlaws for which he was awarded several military citations. For gallantry in action during the campaign against Sultanisa Raya of Gorain, Tugaya, Lanao, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor.

Aside from his military accomplishments, he also excelled in the field of athletics, specializing in baseball and track and field events. He was a Philippine record holder in the 100-meter dash, later broken by Mr. Catalon in 1923; a member of the Philippine Track and Field delegation to the First Far East Olympic held in Tokyo, Japan, and awarded several medals as an athlete.

In the field of journalism, he was a writer and a poet, regularly contributing articles to the old PMA magazine – the “Khaki and Red”.

After his military tour of duty in Lanao, he was detailed as Commanding Officer in Manila Garrison, Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila; then assigned to Camp La Roche in Sindangan, Zamboanga. His last assignment as Command Officer was in Seit Lake, Jolo, Sulu when on October 9, 1932, he together with a detachment of constabulary men under his command, coming in conciliation, was treacherously massacred in ambush by a band of Moro outlaws in Bud, Pamanao, Jolo, Sulu. Thus ended the colorful military career of Lt. Alagar after 15 years of active duty. He died at the age of 36 and was posthumously promoted to the next higher rank.

He was honored with having a PNP Camp named after him in Cagayan de Oro City.

Source of Information:

Felomina Ramiro Alagar  (Widow)
From: http://pro10.pnp.gov.ph/
The Book: Jungle Patrol, the Story of the Philippine Constabulary (1901-1936) Vic Hurley
For the case: G.R. No. L-41566

Kerwin Salvador P. Caragos