Jolo police chief sacked over death of soldiers

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star
Jolo police chief sacked over death of soldiers
PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said Annayo was replaced by Lt. Col. Filmore Calib, former chief of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Mobile Force Battalion.
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MANILA, Philippines  — The Philippine National Police (PNP) sacked Lt. Col. Walter Annayo as police chief of Jolo, Sulu on Wednesday, two days after local police killed four Army intelligence agents.

PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said Annayo was replaced by Lt. Col. Filmore Calib, former chief of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Regional Mobile Force Battalion.

“He was relieved from his post for command responsibility,” Banac said yesterday.

The nine policemen who took part in the shooting last Monday were earlier relieved and placed under restrictive custody. Sulu police director Col. Michael Bawayan, meanwhile, will remain at his post until further notice, Banac said.

The four soldiers identified as Maj. Marvin Indammog, 39, Capt. Irvin Managuelod, 33, Sgt. Eric Velasco, 38, and Cpl. Abdal Asula, 33, were tracking down suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the area when they were stopped by the policemen at a checkpoint in Jolo that later resulted in the shooting incident.

According to the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), the four were part of an intelligence unit gathering information on suicide bombers linked to the Abu Sayyaf group in the vicinity of Barangay Mauboh, Patikul.

PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa yesterday vowed that heads would roll over the killing of the four military intelligence agents.

Gamboa said they will not hesitate to punish the policemen involved if proven that they committed irregularities, which led to the deaths of the soldiers last Monday.

“If they are accountable, yes,” he said at a news briefing at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna when asked if heads will roll in the wake of the incident.

Gamboa inspected a quarantine facility for police officers with symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and met police officials in Calamba.

He ordered the creation of a fact-finding committee which will look into the circumstances that led to the shooting incident.

The police and military earlier agreed to let the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) take the lead to ensure an impartial probe.

According to Gamboa, the fact-finding body will focus on whether there were violations of police operational procedures so that a similar incident will not happen again.

“I know they are saying that from time to time it happens. Well, accidents really happen and sometimes we cannot really prevent it,” he said.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said yesterday that justice would prevail in the shooting incident in Sulu, as he lamented the death of four soldiers whom he described as “professional intelligence officers.”

Año, a former Armed Forces chief, said there are videos, photos and statements from eyewitnesses affirming that there was no shootout when the four Army soldiers died.

“We have detained the suspects who are policemen and we have relieved the chief of the Jolo station and we will make sure that justice will be served but of course, we will observe due process,” Año said at a press briefing.

“You know, my heart bleeds for our soldiers who were slain because I know these people personally. I have been a commander of that unit even when I was still in the military service and they are really professional intelligence officers,” he added.

Año said the NBI and the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group are probing the incident.

“I don’t want to preclude the investigation. We have to observe due process. I have an interest to ensure that justice shall prevail because I know these people and I have been part of the Armed Forces,” he said.

Westmincom spokesman Maj. Arvin Encinas said NBI agents are now investigating the various close circuit television (CCTV) camera footage of the shooting incident in Jolo.

Lt. Gen. Cirilo Sobejana, Westmincom chief, appealed to the public not to spread unverified videos and photos that only create confusion.

He said the public should allow the NBI to make an independent investigation to get to the truth.

Army spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala clarified that it was soldiers who were caught on CCTV footage at the crime scene shortly after the shooting incident.

He said soldiers responded to the shooting incident on Monday, one of them a brother of one of the fatalities, and there were no policemen left at the crime scene.

“There was no PNP personnel at the time the responding soldiers arrived. As a natural instinct, the soldiers went to the gunned vehicle to check for survivors,” he said in a statement.

The PNP earlier described it as a misencounter but after reviewing the official report submitted by the Sulu Police Provincial Office, they said what happened was a shooting incident.

Gamboa said President Duterte plans to talk today to the nine police officers who are restricted to quarters at the Sulu police headquarters in Jolo.

Meanwhile, the PNP said they are letting the NBI validate a surveillance video which has gone viral on social media showing the bloody aftermath of the shooting.?“It needs validation and investigation by the NBI,” Banac said.

In the video, a group of armed men are seen standing near the soldiers’ corpses. The military clarified they were responding Army troopers.

Leni visits wake

Vice President Leni Robredo visited the wake in Metro Manila of three of the four soldiers, and paying her respects to Indammog, Managuelod and Velasco.

The other fatality Asula, 33, was buried immediately in observance of the Islamic tradition.

“All of them were young men who died in the service of the country. It was heartbreaking to hear their stories from their respective families. They had such promising futures ahead of them,” Robredo said in a post on Facebook late Wednesday.

“My heart goes out to their loved ones and the entire Philippine Army who are all grieving for their loss,” she said.

Robredo praised Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay’s leadership and for his efforts to ensure that justice will be served the slain soldiers.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros is calling for a Senate investigation in aid of legislation into the killing of the four soldiers in Jolo.

Hontiveros said the investigation would also address possible distrust of the public toward the PNP.

“The incident in Jolo further feeds the public’s distrust toward the PNP. Especially that this is not the first incident with similar circumstances,” Hontiveros said, citing the incident of Winston Ragos, a retired soldier who was gunned down by policemen at a checkpoint in Quezon City last April.

“Our policemen can’t be trigger-happy,” said Hontiveros, who filed proposed Senate Resolution No. 460 that aims to institutionalize measures against the excessive use of force and violence by policemen.

In the resolution, the senator stated that the two recent incidents demonstrate a disturbing pattern of police behavior that requires long-term strategic measures and legislative action.

“Extensive reform has to be done to restore the public’s trust in our institutions,” she urged. “The police should understand that the incident could add more fear in the mind of the public.”

Hontiveros also cited Army spokesman Zagala’s statements that none of the slain soldiers fired a shot, amid initial reports that the incident was a “misencounter.”

Zagala revealed that the police officers who shot the soldiers fled the scene instead of cordoning off the area and calling on Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO).

Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Jericho Nogales said the House of Representatives is set to probe the shooting in Jolo.

Nograles revealed that House members have agreed to pursue an investigation in aid of legislation to determine whether the incident was a misencounter as claimed by the PNP or a rubout as alleged by the Army.

“Maj. Marvin Indamog had 12 shots – four in front and eight in the back. How could you call that a misencounter? That’s murder, clear as day,” said Nograles.

Nograles said that he was able to gather evidence showing tampering of the crime scene and possible planting of evidence. Cecille Suerte Felipe, Helen Flores, Edu Punay, Romina Cabrera, Alexis Romero, John Unson


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