FINDING JUSTICE. The remains of three of the four slain soldiers allegedly shot and killed by police officers in Sulu last June 29 arrive at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on Tuesday (June 30, 2020). President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to hasten its probe on the incident. (Photo courtesy of the Army Chief Public Affairs Offce)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to hasten its investigation into the shooting incident in Jolo, Sulu involving cops and soldiers, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Duterte gave the order as he grieved over the deaths of four military troops following the supposed “misencounter” in Jolo, Sulu on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a television interview.

“Talagang nalulungkot siya doon sa nangyari na misencounter diyan sa Sulu. At in-orderan nga niya ang NBI na pabilisin ang imbestigasyon (He is really saddened by the misencounter in Sulu. And he ordered the NBI to fast-track its investigation),” Roque said.

Killed were Maj. Marvin Indammog, 39; Capt. Irwin Managuelod, 33; Sgt. Jaime Velasco, 38; and Cpl. Abdal Asula, 33. The four were tailing four terrorist suicide bombers when the shooting happened.

Both the PNP and AFP have already sought the help of the NBI Regional Office in Zamboanga to look into the case of slain soldiers to ensure impartiality and eliminate any suspicion of undue influence.

Last misencounter

Duterte was “extremely sad” when he learned about the tragic incident, Roque said.

“Lungkot na lungkot siya. Ang ginamit nga niyang salita ay siya ay nanlambot, extremely sad (He was really sad. The term he used is he felt weak and extremely sad),” he said.

Duterte, Roque said, expressed hope that police and military would avoid a repeat of the incident under his watch.

“Hindi daw dapat nagpapatayan, nagi-engkuwentro ang parehong ideolohiya. At sabi niya, sana ito na ang huling misencounter sa kaniyang termino (He said those with same ideology should not kill each other or get involved in an encounter. He said that should be the last misencounter under his term),” he said.

Meeting with relieved cops

At least nine police officers who were part of a team that was reportedly involved in the killing of four soldiers were relieved from their posts, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año announced on Tuesday.

Año said the relieved policemen — Staff Sgt. Almudzrin Hadjaruddin, Pat. Alkajal Mandangan, Pat. Rajiv Putalan, Senior M/Sgt. Abdelzhimar Padjiri, M/Sgt. Hanie U Baddiri, S/Sgt. Iskandar Susulan, S/Sgt. Ernisar Sappal, Cpl. Sulki Andaki, and Pat. Mohammad Nur Pasani — were disarmed and placed under the custody of the Sulu police.

He added that the investigation has to be completed first before determining whether the chief of the Jolo Municipal Police station will be held liable for command responsibility.

Roque said Duterte signified intent to meet with the cops engaged in the fatal shooting of four military intelligence personnel in Sulu.

Duterte, however, did not spill any details about his possible meeting with the police officers, Roque said.

“Hiningi ni Presidente kay Secretary Año na gusto niyang makausap ‘yung mga pulis, ‘yung siyam na pulis na diumano ay nagpaputok doon sa apat na Army personnel, kasama ang isang major (The President asked Secretary Año to arrange a meeting with the nine cops involved in the killings of four Army personnel, including the major),” he said.

Roque said Duterte also wanted to visit Sulu to boost the morale of soldiers following the shooting incident.

NBI to determine motive

The Philippine Army (PA) meanwhile, said it is leaving to the NBI the determination of the motive behind the incident.

“We leave the determination of motive to the NBI. We would not want to pre-empt their investigation,” Army spokesperson, Col. Ramon Zagala told the Philippine News Agency.

Zagala added that it is of paramount importance to the PA that the truth behind the incident is known and justice is given to the fallen soldiers.

PA chief, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay ordered all flags in Army camps nationwide to be flown half-mast to honor the four fallen soldiers and also to show sympathy for the families of the slain intelligence troops.

Gapay added that he finds the initial report of the police regarding the incident “fabricated” and “full of inconsistencies” aside from “very misleading”.

He was referring to reports that the four soldiers tried to escape after being accosted by Jolo police and that the intelligence personnel tried to fight back when cornered.

“We (can’t) accept it because (while it) is part of our job, you know we get killed in performing out job but getting unnecessarily killed in the hands of your partners, I think it’s different, it (is) something that can be prevented (that is why) we were enraged and you know (how bad we felt on what happened to the Army personnel who were murdered by the policemen in Jolo,” Gapay said in a media briefing at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

He reiterated that no firefight took place between the intelligence troops and the police officers.

“There was never a firefight, our men never fired a single shot, there were witnesses, there were CCTVs and we have personnel tailing, its SOP (standard operating procedure), the vehicle which was gunned down, and they said it was unidentified (how could that be) when at the checkpoint, they already known that those inside were Army personnel,” Gapay said. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)