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What we know so far on the Jolo 'misencounter' shooting
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - June 30, 2020 - 2:57pm

MANILA, Philippines — A shootout first reported by Rappler on Monday resulted in the deaths of four members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines army intelligence unit at the hands of provincial police. 

RELATED: 4 soldiers killed in 'misencounter' with police in Jolo

The fatalities have since been identified as:

  • Maj. Marvin Indammog, commanding officer of 9th Intelligence Security Unit 
  • Capt. Irwin Managuelod, field service intelligence commander
  • Sgt. Eric Velasco
  • Cpl. Abdal Asula

However, the military and the police present drastically different accounts of what happened that day, particularly involving how the hostilities began.

Even accounts within each agency do not paint the same picture. 

Here's what we know so far. 

Military account

According to a statement by the Western Mindanao Command, or Westmincom:

  • The four were gathering intelligence on suicide bombers linked to the Abu Sayyaf group in the vicinity of Barangay Mauboh, Patikul
  • They were boarding their vehicle when cops suddenly opened fire. 
  • The same statement says that the van was parked in front of the police vehicle when the incident "occurred." 
  • The firefight ended in front of the Jolo Central Fire Station in Barangay Walled City at 2:26 p.m.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Westmincom chief, told reporters: "We don't want any escalation of hostilities out of the incident. Our interest is to know the facts and justice is given. [But] we are yet to establish the motive of the police."

According to a report from the Army's 11th Infantry Division that the Westmincom based its statement on:

  • The team was indeed conducting intelligence-gathering operations in Barangay Mauboh, Patikul but pulled out at 2:15 p.m.
  • An ISU member trailing the van on board a motorcycle witnessed it getting flagged down at police checkpoint midway to Jolo, but recounted that it was allowed to pass "after brief discussion as they will be meeting in the Jolo Police Station." 
  • The van proceeded to the station and parked "50 meters" from it, while cops parked their mobile behind the van, at which point the shooting incident "occurred."

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, commanding general of the Philippine Army, added: "Even after properly identifying themselves, the police personnel approached and fired upon them for still unknown reasons."

A separate statement by Gapay said:

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

The same statement published on the Philippine Army page said that the men "were hot on the trail of Abu Sayyaf members, bomb makers, and suicide bombers in Sulu province," a detail not mentioned in initial accounts. 

Police account

According to a report from Sulu Police Provincial Office to the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region:

  • Elements of the Jolo Municipal Police Station and the Police Drug Enforcement Unit were on patrol at Barangay Bus-bus
  • The cops initially identified the four personnel as armed civilians inside a grey Mitsubishi Montero SUV
  • Police officers approached and "accosted" the men, supposedly to direct them to proceed to the Jolo Police Station

Some time at this point, the men suddenly drove away and attempted to flee. A chase ensued, and after the brief chase, the four men disembarked from their vehicle, drew their guns, and the firefight commenced.

Reports are sketchy as to what happened at this point and on whether the van made it to the station or not.

The PRO-BAR said that the men fled right then and there instead of proceeding to the Jolo Municipal Police Station as the police told them to. 

However, initial reports from the Sulu Provincial Police Office as mentioned in a CNN Philippines report said that the army men fled the station after they were apprehended for questioning. 

What happens now?

The Sulu Police Provincial Office said at least five policemen were involved in the incident were already in the custody of the provincial headquarters.

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. 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.

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.

RELATED: NBI set to probe shooting between Sulu cops and military

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

He called the police spot report "fabricated" and "misleading."

Philstar.com has reached out to Jolo police to confirm the details independently, but the town police have yet to respond as of this post. — with reports from The STAR/Roel Pareño

This is a developing story. It will be updated as the situation progresses. 

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