• Melo Acuna

NBI to inquire into deaths of four Army troopers

Four army troopers shot dead in restive Sulu

MANILA – At least four soldiers from the Philippine Army died when shot by police operatives who mistook them for criminal elements.

Conflicting reports from various sources reached media outlets. The Philippine Army, in a statement said at about 2:40 P.M. yesterday, a military intelligence team on board a sport utility vehicle with two officers and two enlisted personnel under the 11th Infantry Division were reported to be tracking Abu Sayyaf members and suicide bombers in Sulu province.

“They were flagged down by personnel of Jolo Municipal Police Station who were manning a checkpoint in Jolo town proper. Even after properly identifying themselves, the police personnel approached and fired upon them for still unknown reasons,” the statement revealed.

It was learned Army Chief, Lt. General Gilbert I. Gapay, was “enraged and demands” for a full-blown investigation on the death of the four soldiers from the hands of PNP personnel.

“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. Furthermore, no agents from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency are involved and this is not an anti-drug operation. The Army grieves and condoles with families of our fallen men. There will be no let-up in our quest for truth and justice,” General Gapay said in a statement.

Meanwhile, AFP Western Mindanao Command Chief, Lt. General Cirilito E. Sobejana said they have requested the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate what he described as “unfortunate” incident where four members of the AFP died.

“Our objective is to ferret out the truth and justice be given,” he said.

According to the Philippine National Police’s initial report from the Sulu Provincial Police Office to the PNP Bangasamoro Regional Office, their operatives were on patrol with elements from the Police Drug Enforcement Unit at a village in Jole when they saw a gray Montero SUV with four armed men.

The report said the “armed men” were accosted and directed to proceed to Jolo Municipal Police Station.

According to the same police report, upon arrival at the police station, the armed men fled towards another village still on board their vehicle. The policed said the armed men confronted the police and “before they could pull the trigger, the PNP personnel were able to shoot them in defense.”

It was reported the armed men who turned out to be Army intelligence operations, died in a firefight.

The Philippine Army identified the fatalities as Major Marvin Indamog, commanding officer of the 9thIntelligence Security Unit, Captain Irwin Managuelod, one Sgt. Eric Velasco and one Corporal Abdal Asula.

Police Brig. General Bernard Banac said both PNP and the AFP in Sulu agreed that the National Bureau of Investigation regional office in Zamboanga City to conduct and lead the investigation.

“This is to ensure impartiality and to eliminate any suspicion of undue influence,” General Banac said in a statement. He added as part of the standard operating procedures, all police elements involved in the incident, particularly from the Jolo Municipal Police Station “are restricted to quarters in preparation for the NBI’s investigation.”

The regional police director at the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, Brig. General Manuel Abu has been instructed to extend full administrative and operation support to the National Bureau of Investigation, an agency under the Department of Justice.

At the regular Press Briefing hosted by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque at midday today, he declined to issue any reaction as he said he would rather wait for the investigation results from the National Bureau of Investigation. (Melo M. Acuña)

AFP Western Command Chief Lt. General Cirilito Sobejana (left) and PNP Spokesman Brig. General Bernard Banac. (File Photos/Melo M. Acuña)

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