TENSION between military and police units in Sulu, arising from last week’s killing of four Army intelligence personnel by policemen, has subsided, military commanders said yesterday.
“We’re already okay. We’re back to normal because the nine PNP personnel are no longer here, we’re back to normal,” said Maj. Gen. Cornelio Vinluan, commander of the 11th Infantry Division, referring to the policemen involved in the June 29 incident in Jolo town.
The policemen were initially detained at the Sulu provincial headquarters then transferred to Zamboanga City. Officials said the nine will be transported soon to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, pending an NBI probe on the incident.
Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Zamboanga City-based AFP Western Mindanao Command, said, “There is no more tension.”
“President Duterte visited us (last Friday) and his guidance is very clear. He called for sobriety because the NBI is there investigating and in due time, the result will come out,” he said.
Vinluan, also the chief of the Joint Task Force Sulu, gave the assurance no soldier will get even with the PNP for the death of Maj. Marvin Indammog, Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Jaime Velasco, and Cpl. Abdal Asula.
“No one will take revenge. I already talked to the (subordinate) commanders to let the NBI continue with their investigation. Anyway, the nine were already identified, it’s now up to the NBI,” said
“My instruction to the troops is to let the NBI investigate, wait for the result of the investigation. Anyway, those who killed our troops is not the (PNP) organization but the group (of the suspects) only,” he added.
Vinluan said the incident was an isolated case, adding he knows the provincial police director, Col. Michael Bawayan. “No provincial director, in his right mind, would order his policemen to kill soldiers,” he said.
On Tuesday last week, an enraged Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay said the situation in Sulu was “very tense,” noting that soldiers were angered by the killing of the four soldiers who he said were going after Abu Sayyaf bombers at that time.
Sobejana said members of terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters will just laugh at the military establishment if soldiers will get back at the policemen.
He said there will be no revenge because one should not not be held accountable for the crime of another. “That is what we are emphasizing and we belong to one government,” he said in Filipino.
Nevertheless, Sobejana said the military is taking measures against a possible clan war, or “rido,” under the Muslim culture. One of the slain soldiers, Asula, and the nine policemen are Muslims. Asula has five siblings, one of them also a soldier.
“Rido is family against a family so this is what we are closely monitoring and we are coordinating with our partners like religious leaders, the traditional leaders and the local government to convince everyone to calm down,” said Sobejana.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the DILG is looking into why CCTV footage that came out in public did not show the actual shooting of the soldiers.
“That, we will determine. May na-delete ba diyan, ano yung nangyari? (Was a portion deleted, what happened?),” he asked.
Citing initial investigation of the NBI, Año said Indammog sustained nine gunshot wounds — eight at the back and one in the arm, which he said is “very revealing.”
“Why do you have to shoot a person eight times (at the back)? So that would constitute murder,” he said.
“After all, whatever happens, it’s still murder. Whatever is the motive, whatever is the background, these suspects will be charged and will have to answer for murder,” the DILG chief also said.
An official police report on the incident said the soldiers aimed their guns at the policemen who earlier accosted them.
Año said Managuelod and Velasco sustained three gunshot wounds each but did not say which part of the body they were hit.
Asula was not subjected to autopsy and paraffin test as he was immediately buried in keeping with the Muslim tradition.
Rogelio Casurao, vice chairman of the National Police Commission, said the killing could have been prevented if the policemen exercised maximum tolerance.
In an interview over ANC, he said the nine policemen apparently made the wrong judgment because initial evidence, as shown on viral video footage, showed the four soldiers were not a threat because they were not carrying firearms.
“Maximum tolerance should have been exercised in any situation… Care should have been exercised already by the police especially it was near a checkpoint, it was very near the police station and that there was no absolute danger or risk on the part of the policemen because everything was neutralized already,” Casurao said.
“So, they could have exercised extreme caution in dealing with the members of the Philippine Army, which turned out later on as victims. I would say that it could have been the better procedure and it (killings) could have been avoided. But since it happened so fast, that there’s no chance to even say ‘stop shooting we are no enemies, we are brothers in arms’,” he added.
Casurao also clarified that the Napolcom investigation on the incident will be only on the administrative aspect of the case – which will decide whether to kick out of service the policemen involved or punish them with suspension, demotion, or other administrative penalties.
Based on the viral video footage, Casurao said one can conclude that there was no shootout or mis-encounter. – With Raymond Africa