MANILA – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will look into the encounter that resulted in the killing of four military troops by police officers in Sulu on Monday.
In a statement, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, said the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have agreed that the NBI Regional Office in Zamboanga City will conduct and lead the investigation to ensure impartiality and eliminate any suspicion of undue influence.
“As an immediate administrative action, all personnel involved in the incident, particularly from the Jolo MPS (Municipal Police Station) are restricted to quarters in preparation for the NBI’s investigation,” Banac said.
Banac said Brig. Gen. Manuel Abu, director of the Police Regional Office–Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR) has been ordered to extend full administrative and operational support to the NBI.
In a report, the Sulu Provincial Police Office said around 2 p.m. on Monday, police officers from the Jolo Municipal Police Station (MPS) flagged four men onboard a sports utility vehicle while manning a checkpoint at the town proper.
The police officers apprehended the four men and instructed them to proceed to the Jolo MPS for verification.
However, the four men, who were later identified as members of an intelligence unit of the AFP, allegedly fled towards Barangay San Raymundo and were chased by the police officers.
The four men allegedly disembarked from the vehicle and pointed guns at the police officers. The police officers allegedly fired at them which resulted in a firefight.
Killed in the incident were a major, a captain, a sergeant, and a corporal, who were on a mission to track Abu Sayyaf Group members and bomb makers when the incident transpired.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described the encounter as a “very unfortunate incident”.
He, however, declined to issue any more additional comments on the issue pending the ongoing investigation on the incident.
“Very unfortunate incident. No additional comments (for now) while (the) inquiry is ongoing. The reports coming in are still very hazy,” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, meanwhile, said the incident should have not happened as the AFP and the PNP have been working closely in the fight against the terrorists.
“I want to know what really happened and no stone must be left unturned. I already gave instructions to (PNP chief) Gen. Archie Gamboa to disarm the policemen involved, restrict them under the custody of the Sulu Provincial Director. They will be investigated by the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group),” he added.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Army said its commander, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, is enraged over the incident.
“The Commanding General, Philippine Army is enraged and demands that a full-blown investigation must be conducted on the death of four soldiers from the hands of PNP forces,” Army spokesperson, Col. Ramon Zagala, said in a statement Tuesday.
Gapay, in a separate statement, said that even after properly identifying themselves, the police personnel approached and fired on them for still unknown reasons.
“The soldiers were on a mission to identify the location of known terrorists in the area. Based on eyewitness accounts, no altercation transpired between the two parties nor was there any provocation on the part of Army personnel to warrant such carnage,” Gapay said.
He added that there are no agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency involved and the mission is not an anti-drug operation.
“The Army grieves and condoles with the families of our fallen men. There will be no let-up in our quest for truth and justice,” Gapay said. Priam Nepomuceno and Christopher Lloyd Caliwan /PNA – northboundasia.com