NBI set to probe shooting between Sulu cops and military

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
NBI set to probe shooting between Sulu cops and military
This satellite image shows Jolo, Sulu.
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MANILA, Philippines — The National Bureau of Investigation is set to look into a clash between elements of both the military and the national police that resulted in the deaths of four soldiers in Sulu. 

According to a report from the Sulu Police Provincial Office, patrolling cops from the Jolo Municipal Police Station and the Police Drug Enforcement Unit "accosted" four armed men aboard an SUV, who initially attempted to flee but later pointed guns at them. 

The Philippine military for its part told a very different story, saying that the cops "approached and fired upon them for still unknown reasons."

In a statement issued late Monday night, Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, said: "The PNP leadership extends its deepest condolences to the family and colleagues of two Philippine Army officers and two enlisted men who died in the unfortunate incident of a misencounter with PNP personnel in Jolo, Sulu."

According to the armed forces, the military men were on an official mission and were "were hot on the trail of Abu Sayyaf members, bomb makers, and suicide bombers in Sulu province."

"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," said Lieutenant General Gilbert I. Gapay, Army Commanding General.

"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 the families of our fallen men. There will be no let up in our quest for truth and justice," he added. 

Army says police spot report 'misleading'

In an interview over CNN Philippines, Army Spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala Jr. said that their troops did not engage the cops in a firefight since they "properly coordinated and identified themselves," calling the police spot report "fabricated" and "misleading."

Philstar.com has reached out to Jolo police to confirm the details independently, but it has not responded as of this publishing.  

"The PNP and AFP officials in Sulu have agreed that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Regional Office in Zamboanga City will conduct and lead the investigation to ensure impartiality and to eliminate any suspicion of undue influence," Banac said. 

"As an immediate administrative action, all personnel involved in the incident, particularly from the Jolo MPS,  are restricted to quarters in preparation for the NBI’s investigation. The Regional Director of Police Regional Office-BAR, Police Brigadier General Manuel Abu has been instructed to extend full administrative and operational support to the NBI," he added.

The Western Mindanao Command of the AFP also called on the NBI to conduct an impartial investigation on the shooutout in Jolo.

“I 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 justice is given,” Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told reporters. — with The STAR/Roel Pareño



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