‘Misencounter’ between soldiers and police in Jolo kills 4

Marje Pelayo   •   June 30, 2020   •   627

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — An alleged “misencounter” with police resulted in the death of four members of a Philippine Army intelligence unit in  Jolo, Sulu, on Monday afternoon (June 29).

In a statement, the Philippine Army confirmed that the fatalities were two intelligence officers and two enlisted personnel under the 11th Infantry Division who were on a mission to identify the location of known terrorists in the area. 

The PA said the team was flagged by members of the Jolo Municipal Police Station manning a checkpoint in front of Jolo Central Fire Station in Barangay Walled City, Jolo, Sulu. 

But even after properly identifying themselves, the police allegedly approached the soldiers and fired at them though the exact reasons behind the incident remain unknown. 

“We are yet to establish the motive of the police,” said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command. 

The Philippine Army has already requested a full-blown investigation on the incident.

“We also requested the NBI to investigate to ensure impartiality. We don’t want any escalation of hostilities out of the incident. Our interest is to know the facts and give justice,” he added.

While investigation is still ongoing, the Philippine Army has appealed to the public not to sensationalize the incident through social media or any other means.

“We will wait for the investigation to be completed,” Sobejena said. 

Meanwhile, Army Commanding General Lt.Gen. Gilbert Gapay said there were no altercations that transpired between the police and soldiers based on witnesses’ accounts.

Gapay assured, however, that there was no provocation on the part of the Army personnel that might have triggered the gunfight.

He clarified that it was not anti-drug operations thus no member of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency was involved.

“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 concluded.

Lacson tells Army chief Gapay to ‘temper emotions’ over slay of 4 soldiers

Robie de Guzman   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has urged Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay to temper his emotions over the killing of four soldiers by police officers in Jolo, Sulu.

“While I can easily relate to Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay and understand how he feels about the Army officers slain in Sulu, emotions running high at this point is the last thing they need,” Lacson said in a statement on Wednesday.

Gapay earlier denounced the slay of his men, describing the incident as “rubout” and “murder.” He also called for the sacking of Sulu’s police chief following the incident.

Lacson, a former chief of Philippine National Police (PNP), said that “decisiveness, not divisiveness” is needed as he warned that terrorists and armed insurgents may “exploit” the situation.

“For all they know, their common enemies such as the terrorists and armed insurgents are already celebrating the Sulu incident — and even making plans to exploit it,” he said.

The senator said the “enemies of the state” are “very capable of fanning the flames of animosity” between the police and military by “creating intrigues to further divide the country’s two major security forces.”

Lacson also said that enemies of the State, through their legal fronts, have been “sowing disinformation” about the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the National ID System.

“Ultimately, decisiveness, not divisiveness, is needed in dealing with the enemies of the State and the Filipino people,” he said.

On June 29, four soldiers were fatally shot by police officers some meters away from the Jolo police station.

Police said the military officers attempted to escape and opened fire at them while on their way to a nearby police station for identity verification. However, the Philippine Army disputed this claim, saying the soldiers did not try to flee and never fired a single shot towards police officers.

The nine police officers involved in the incident, as well as the chief of Jolo police station have been relieved from their posts.

The National Bureau of Investigation is already conducting a probe into the incident.

Pangilinan seeks Senate probe on fatal shooting of 4 soldiers in Jolo

Robie de Guzman   •   July 2, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan is calling for an inquiry into the killing of four soldiers by local policemen in Jolo, Sulu.

“Nakakabahala ang balitang ito. Ngayon pa lang na hindi pa batas ang anti-terror bill, may nangyayari nang ganito. Ano na lang ang laban ng ordinaryong tao?” Pangilinan said in a statement on Wednesday.

On Monday afternoon, June 29, four members of the Philippine Army were fatally shot by police officers some meters away from the Jolo police station.

The Army said the four soldiers were on an official mission and were tracking suspected suicide bombers  when they were accosted by the local police.

The soldiers, who had been wearing plain clothes, were said to have introduced themselves to the policemen. The cops allegedly told them to go with them to a nearby police station for identity verification.

Initial police report said that as their team and Army officers approached the police station, the soldiers’ vehicle allegedly sped off, prompting a car chase.

Police said they only defended themselves when the soldiers opened fire.

The Army disputed this claim, saying the soldiers did not try to escape and never fired a single shot towards police officers based on eye-witness accounts of two civilians and of a motorcycle-riding soldier who was part of the operation trailing the soldiers’ vehicle.

Pangilinan said the police and military have different versions of what happened, and an “independent and impartial” Senate probe will “help bring out the truth.”

“This incident is disturbing because it appears that the police are quick in pulling the trigger without careful judgment. If they can do this to their fellow uniformed men, how much more to the ordinary civilians who are unarmed and defenseless?” the senator said.

Nevertheless, Pangilinan called on military and police ground commanders to “rein in their men to preserve peace and avert escalation of tension between the armed personnel.”

“We should be going after the common enemy — terrorists, drug lords, armed groups, and in this time of the pandemic, COVID — not against each other,” Pangilinan said.

The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines earlier said they have requested the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct an impartial probe into the incident.

The nine policemen involved in the incident, as well as the chief of Jolo police station have also been ordered relieved from their posts pending investigation.

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PNP admits ‘no misencounter’ in Jolo incident

Marje Pelayo   •   July 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Army Commanding General Gilbert Gapay cries murder over the death of four military personnel in conflict with members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Jolo, Sulu on Monday (June 29). 

“It was murder. There was no misencounter dahil hindi naman pumutok iyong tropa namin. Andon ang mga baril nila sa baba. [There was no misencounter because our troops did not pull a trigger. Their firearms were down.] It was a rubout!” he stressed. 

The PNP, for its part, did not deny that the incident was not a misencounter but instead, was a shooting incident. 

Nais din natin bigyang linaw ang naunang pahayag na umano ay merong misencounter. Ayon sa ating pagaanalisa ng report na unang nailabas at officially released spot report ay nakita natin na wala namang paggamit or pagpapaputok ng baril mula sa mga namatay na sundalo,” noted PNP Spokesperson PBGen. Bernard Banac.

[We want to clarify earlier reports of an alleged misencounter. After analyzing the officially released as a spot report, we concluded that the fallen soldiers did not exchange gunshots.]

“Ang nakalagay lamang doon ay umamba kaya yaon ang naging response ng ating Jolo Municipal Personnel. Batay sa pag-aaral na iyan makikita natin na hindi na ito misencounter ito ay isang shooting Incident,” he added.

[What was written there was that the soldiers positioned to shoot thus the response of out Jolo Municipal Police personnel. Based on our analysis, it was no longer a misencounter but a shooting incident.]

The PNP Spokesperson, however, refused to comment further on Gapay’s claim of a rubout.

Iginagalang natin ang mga pahayag ng ating mga pinuno at mga kasama sa Philippine Army at sa Armed Forces of the Philippines subalit ipinauubaya na natin ito sa NBI na syang maglalabas kung ano talaga ang tunay na nangyari,” Banac said. 

[We respect the statements of our officers and comrades in the Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines but we leave it to the NBI to release the report as to what really happened.]

“Kung ano ang mga naging sequence of events at kung ano ang magiging conclusion at kung ano man ito ay handa itong suportahan ng Philippine National Police,” he assured.

[The Philippine National Police is ready to support whatever the sequence of events and conclusions may arise from it.]

The PNP expressed its sincere apology to its comrades in the military for the death of the four soldiers while it assured that those responsible in the incident will be penalized accordingly. 

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he does not want to speculate as to what really transpired in the encounter as he is not buying the claims of rubout and murder against the military personnel. 

He said the AFP and the PNP have conflicting statements regarding the events that transpired in the scene thus he prefered to wait for the result of the NBI’s investigation on the incident. 

“It’s not good to speculate. The accounts from both sides are conflicting. Let’s wait for the NBI investigation,” Lorenzana said. 

Nonetheless, he said he fully understood Gen Gapay’s burst of emotions because the victims were among his men in the AFP.

“He is just repeating the reports he got from our people on the ground. Of course, the event happened just the other day and emotions are high among the Army troops. The army leadership in Sulu are trying hard to calm their people while inquiry is going on,” Lorenzana said. MNP (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

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