Philippines Report

NBI to oversee probe of Jolo ‘misencounter’

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The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) decided to let the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) formally investigate the apparent misencounter between military and police personnel in Jolo, Sulu on Monday which led to the death of four Philippine Army troops.

Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said in a television interview over CNN Philippines on Tuesday that both the leadership of the AFP and PNP agreed to allow a third party unit to conduct a “separate, impartial, and independent” investigation of the incident.

“Nag-usap na po ang hepe ng Philippine National Police, si Police General Archie Gamboa, at ang ating AFP Chief of Staff si Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., at nagkasundo sila na hingin nga po ang tulong ng National Bureau of Investigation upang magkaroon ng separate at impartial, independent investigation dito (Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Archie Gamboa and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. agreed to ask assistance from the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a separate, impartial, and independent investigation),” Arevalo said.

The fatalities were identified in a police report from the Jolo municipal police station as Maj.Arvin Indamog, commanding officer of the Army’s 9th Intelligence Service Unit (9ISU), Capt. Irwin Managuelod, field station commander, and intelligence operatives Sgt. Eric Velasco and Cpl. Abdal Asula.

The local office of the NBI in Zamboanga City was already dispatched to start the investigation, according to the PNP.

The NBI came into picture after several versions of the incident reached the authorities.

According to a police report from the local police, personnel of the Jolo municipal police station spotted the four Army personnel, who were armed and in civilian attire, onboard a gray SUV in Sitio Marina, Barangay Walled City around 2:40 p.m.

The four men introduced themselves as soldiers and the police directed them to proceed to the police station for further verification. However, the soldiers allegedly sped off which triggered a car chase. The police officers caught up with the soldiers, who allegedly pointed their guns at the cops. This prompted the police to fire shots, the report said.

However, Arevalo said the soldiers appeared to have just parked a few meters away from the police station and were not escaping as the police suggested.

“Hindi sila doon huminto sa mismong tapat ng police station. Apparently for security reasons, they moved a little further away dun sa police station pero huminto rin sila (They did not stop in front of the police station. Apparently for security reasons, they moved a little further away from the police station but they stopped right away),” he explained.

From there, Arevalo said Maj. Indamog alighted from the vehicle and talked to the local police to appease them. But then, the police started firing shots, he added.

“Bumaba si Maj. Indamog at nagkaroon sila ng pag-uusap ng isang miyembro ng PNP, at ang report nga sa atin ay pinapatukan ang mga sundalo, ang ating mga kawal at naging sanhi nga ng kamatayan nitong apat na ito (Major Indamog alighted from the vehicle and talked to one police, and the report that reached us is that the cops fired shots towards our soldiers which caused the death of the four),” he said.

Arevalo also denied that the Army personnel engaged the cops in a firefight, citing a military report they received from the ground.

“Ang report sa atin ay walang exchange of fire (Based on the report we obtained, there was no exchange of fire),” he said.

“Ang initial na impormasyon natin ay pinaputukan itong mga sundalo habang sila ay nakasakay doon sa kanilang vehicle (The initial information that we have is that the soldiers were fired upon while they were inside the vehicle),” he added.

‘Intelligence work’

Arevalo said the soldiers were in civilian attire because they were doing an intelligence work, specifically a SIGNIT operation or intelligence gathering by interception of signals, to capture suicide bombers from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

“Nagkaroon ng intelligence operations itong ating apat na myembro ng Army intelligence regiment at meron silang importanteng misyon hinggil sa pagtunton nila dito sa mga teroristang Abu Sayyaf dyan sa lugar na yan ng Patikul, Sulu (The four members of the Army intelligence regiment were conducting an intelligence operation, an important mission to locate Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Patikul, Sulu),” he said.

The suicide bombers, who were said to be under the command of Abu Sayyaf bomb maker Mundi Sawadjaan, were reportedly spotted in the area, hence, the operation. Sawadjaan is the nephew of ASG sub-leader Hajan Sawadjaan.

The Army operatives were on their way home from their assignment when the incident happened, Arevalo said.

Army chief fumes

Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, Army commanding general, was reportedly “enraged” by the fatal shooting of the soldiers in the hands of the police and demanded for a full-blown investigation to be conducted.

“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.

Gapay also refuted claims that surfaced which centered on alleged illegal drug operations.

According to the Jolo police report, the cops were accompanied by anti-drug operatives while patrolling when the incident happened.

“No agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency are involved and this is not an anti-drug operation,” Gapay said.

Gapay also refuted claims that surfaced which centered on alleged illegal drug operations.

According to the Jolo police report, the cops were accompanied by anti-drug operatives while patrolling when the incident happened.

“No agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency are involved and this is not an anti-drug operation,” Gapay said.

The Army chief said he was grieving the death of the four soldiers and extended his condolences to the families of the fallen men.

“There will be no let-up in our quest for truth and justice,” he said.

Rift?

Despite the incident, Arevalo assured that there is no rift between the military and police.

“Ang gusto po ng dalawang mga lider ng AFP at ng PNP ay huwag na nating palakihin itong insidenteng ito (Both the AFP and PNP leadership appealed not to sensationalize this incident),” he said.

“May mga reports na hinggil sa kung paano ang nangyari. Mayroon po tayong kagustuhan na magkaroon ng indepedenteng imbestigasyon upang malaman ang tunay na nangyari at mabigyan ng karampatang kaparusahan kung sino man ang nagkasala dito (We already have reports of what transpired. We want an independent investigation to determine what really happened to punish the offenders),” he added.

The cops involved in the incident were already disarmed and restricted to their quarters pending the investigation of the NBI.

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