AFP chief tells soldiers: Shun revenge
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the chiefs of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have already spoken with each other and have agreed to let the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conduct a deep, independent and separate probe of the incident.
KJ Rosales/ File

AFP chief tells soldiers: Shun revenge

Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - July 6, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. has called on Philippine Army soldiers not to entertain the idea of avenging the death of their comrades who were shot by policemen in Jolo, Sulu last week.

Military commanders have also been instructed to remind their troops that resorting to retaliation is not the right thing to do and will not do them any good.

AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the chiefs of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have already spoken with each other and have agreed to let the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) conduct a deep, independent and separate probe of the incident.

Arevalo told radio station dzBB in an interview yesterday that such investigation is needed “for us to know what really happened, and that justice will be served in the killing of our fellow soldiers.”

“We are a professional organization, we know that we have feelings and we understand that, especially those of the families of the fallen and the very fellows in the unit of the soldiers who were killed, but be that as it may, being mature and professional military personnel, the order of our AFP chief of staff is to let the wheels of justice roll,” he said in mixed Flipino and English.

Arevalo added that both the military and the police should continue facing the real enemy, the suspected terrorists or suicide bombers who were the subjects of the mission of the intelligence operation being conducted by the four soldiers when they were killed.

Robredo: Ensure justice

Vice President Leni Robredo yesterday called on authorities to ensure justice for the slain soldiers.

“The families are not asking for anything but justice,” Robredo said in her weekly program over radio station dzXL.

Ensuring that the persons involved in the killing of the soldiers would be made accountable could help lessen the tension between the military and the police in Jolo, according to the Vice President.

She said it is important that the AFP and the PNP are together in maintaining peace in the region.

Speaking before troops in Zamboanga City on Friday, President Duterte asked soldiers to keep calm in the wake of the incident.

“You want to take revenge? For what? Gusto ko ring pumatay ng pulis (Would I also want to kill policemen)? For what? Would it make the four officers come back to life?” the President said.

Robredo visited the wake of the three of the four slain soldiers last week.

She described her conversation with the families as “heartbreaking.”

“They had such promising futures ahead of them,” the Vice President said.

Positive in rapid test

Meanwhile, one of the nine policemen tagged in the killing of soldiers in Sulu last week tested positive in the rapid test for the coronavirus disease 2019 antibody, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

Año said the policeman, whom he did not identify, underwent a rapid test as a precautionary measure before meeting Duterte.

The policeman was not allowed to join the meeting with the President in Zamboanga City and has since been subjected to a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction or swab test, but there are no results yet.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) chief said all nine policemen would be transferred to a custodial facility at the PNP’s headquarters in Camp Crame while investigations are ongoing.

They were supposed to be transported to Manila during a flight with government officials on Friday, but were left behind following the positive rapid test results of one of the suspects.

A separate flight will be held for the policemen following a quarantine period.

Año said Duterte was empathic and emotional during the meeting with the policemen when he assured them of due process.

“We saw that the President is affected. In fact, when he spoke, he was very emotional and he was really hurt from what happened. He told the nine policemen that they should cooperate in the ongoing investigation and tell what really happened,” he said in Filipino in an interview over dzBB.

Still, the DILG chief gave assurance that criminal charges over the incident would be filed as he said the policemen involved committed lapses.

“The rule of engagement should be followed, and we should not veer away from what we call protocols and standard operating procedures (SOPs). We can see in the incident that the suspects committed many violations. This would not have happened if there was proper adherence to the rules of engagement,” he said.

Año added that they would review standing rules of engagement and SOPs following the tragic incident last Monday.  Helen Flores, Romina Cabrera

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