The death of four military intelligence officers in Sulu in the hands of Jolo policemen is an isolated case that will not affect the good relationship between the police and the military, the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Wednesday.
In fact, PNP chief Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa said that he and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos are expected to be in Cebu on Wednesday in connection with the government response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) surge in Central Visayas.
“This is a proof that although we grieve, our condolences to those who died in that encounter, it’s an isolated case and the PNP, together with the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) still continuously enjoy confidence with each other. I hope that will clarify things,” said Gamboa.
The four military intelligence agents were conducting surveillance on suspected Abu Sayyaf men with ties to the international terror groups and were on their way back to their camp when their vehicle was flagged down in a checkpoint in Barangay Bus-Bus in Jolo town.
Although they identified themselves as soldiers, they were still directed to go to the Jolo police station for verification.
Security has always been tight in Sulu due to the presence of various armed groups that include Abu Sayyaf and other groups with close ties to international terror groups.
A few minutes after arriving at the police station, gunshots were heard and all the soldiers were killed. They were identified as Maj. Marvin Indammog, commanding officer of the 9th Intelligence Security Unit, Capt. Irwin Managuelod, field service intelligence commander, Sgt. Eric Velasco, and Corporal Abdal Asula.
The two slain officers are Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduates.
Military commanders were furious about the incident and branded it as a case of murder as they contradicted the police report stating that the four soldiers tried to shoot it out with the Jolo police after a brief car chase that started when the soldiers’ vehicle allegedly sped off after arriving at the police station.
“There are nine policemen involved. They are all under the custody of the provincial director of Sulu and at any time that their presence or their affidavits may be taken, we are always open to that,” said Gamboa.
Three of the involved policemen are members of the Sulu Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit while the rest are from the Jolo Municipal Police Station Alert Team.
The first version of the police report stated that the local police force fired at the soldiers to defend themselves as the latter allegedly tried to point guns at them.
Later, the Jolo incident was branded by the police as a misencounter.
But military commanders rejected the use of misencounter to describe what happened in Jolo, saying the soldiers did not even lift their guns before they were fired upon since there appeared to be an intention on the part of the Maj. Indammog to explain to the police why they were on civilian clothes when he alighted from the vehicle.
The circumstances leading to the incident are now being investigated.
The Jolo incident is the latest among unfortunate incidents involving the police and the military.
On June 25 last year, six rookie policemen died while nine others were wounded when soldiers conducting a military operation in Santa Rita, Samar mistook them for communist rebels.
The policemen were reportedly on a test mission and entered the area allegedly without coordination with the local military forces. The team of the policemen involved in the incident, however, disputed claims that they did not coordinate their entry into the remote area in Sta. Rita town.
Another controversy involving the police and the military was when the police’s Special Action Force leadership accused the local military forces in Central Mindanao of abandoning the police commando in Maguindanao in what is now infamously referred to as the massacre of the 44 SAF commandos.
But despite these incidents, the police and military maintained a good working relationship especially in running after communist rebels and terror groups.
“When the incident happened yesterday. I immediately called up the Chief of Staff (Santos), and we both agreed that the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) is going to do the investigation,” said Gamboa.
Gamboa and Santos are members of PMA Class 1986.
“The PNP and the AFP are both open to the investigation and my request for the NBI is an impartial investigation so that the truth would come out and whatever would be the findings of the NBI, the PNP and the AFP will together embrace whatever the recommendations (may be),” said Gamboa.
“If ever there are charges that would be filed, then the PNP will always be open to it,” he added.