Soldier killed, 9 others hurt in clash with Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu

Robie de Guzman   •   June 23, 2020   •   380

MANILA, Philippines – A soldier was killed while several others were injured in a “fierce firefight” between military troops and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members in Patikul, Sulu on Monday, June 22, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (AFP Westmincom) said.

In a statement, the AFP said that around noon on Monday, soldiers of 32nd Infantry Battalion encountered an undetermined number of members of the terror group in Sitio Tubig Bukayon in Barangay Pansul.

The firefight killed one military officer and wounded nine others while the number of casualties among the ASG members is still undetermined.

“It is with deep sadness to report that one valiant military officer paid the ultimate sacrifice and nine personnel were wounded while fearlessly fighting the enemies and protecting the people of Sulu,” Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, WestMinCom Commander said.

Sobejana added that the family of the fallen soldier will be notified and provided with “all forms of assistance.”

The AFP said its Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu is currently going after the ASG members.

“Our troops are still pursuing the withdrawing enemies who left several blood stains on their tracks,” Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, JTF Commander, said in the same statement.

The military vowed to continue its intensified offensive operations against the local terrorist group.

“The skirmishers between our forces and the ASG persist. As we actively support the civil government in preventing the spread of COVID-19, we also ensure that the people in the community are safe and secured from the terrorism,” Sobejana said.

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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‘Misencounter’ between soldiers and police in Jolo kills 4

Marje Pelayo   •   June 30, 2020

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.

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