Review of operations needed to avert police-army clashes
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - July 3, 2020 - 12:00am

The police gun slaying of four soldiers in Sulu Monday was not an isolated case. Armed Forces and National Police generals know that; they had come across such incidents as they rose up the ranks. Clashes occur between friendly forces by accident or design. Beyond that the two uniformed services need to determine breaches in protocols and failures of leadership and discipline. Field measures, like basic coordination, need constant review and polishing to avoid loss of lives.

To call it a “mis-encounter” is wrong to begin with, Rep. Jericho Nograles says. “Conceding that this is an innocent mis-encounter is to whitewash possible murder. Reckless and irresponsible. The PNP should know better and choose words carefully because this is adding insult to injury to the families and brothers-in-arms.”

Army Major Marvin Indamog sustained 12 gunshot wounds in the body, four in front and eight in the back, Nograles quotes initial findings. That indicates excessive use of force, going by the PNP Manual of Operations, he notes. Official autopsies have yet to state the fatal wounds of Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Eric Velasco, and Cpl. Abdal Asula.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay cries “rubout.” The embellished thus incredible police incident report shows it.

Jolo municipal police claim to have accosted at a checkpoint four armed men in civvies aboard an SUV who introduced themselves as Army men. The four supposedly were instructed to proceed to the police station “for verification.” On arrival there the four suddenly sped off, so were chased till cornered. They allegedly alit with unspecified guns. “The said persons lifted and pointed their firearms toward PNP personnel. However, before they could pull the trigger, the PNP personnel were able to shoot them in defense,” the report concluded.

“We find it fabricated, full of inconsistencies,” Gapay fumes. ‘Parang sine (like a movie), very misleading. We feel bad about what happened to our Army personnel who were murdered.” Had there been a firefight the cops should have been hit too, he adds.

“It does read like action-fiction,” a police general confides to The STAR. “Even if the pursuers were quick, it would have taken them several seconds to draw their own weapons, cock and aim. By then, the pursued would have already fired in a split second and felled the pursuers. That’s what happens in a gunfight, whether or not the soldiers had marksmanship training.”

Nine implicated Jolo cops reportedly are detained at Sulu province police headquarters. Names and ranks have not been disclosed. Their town chief Lt. Col. Walter Annayo has been relieved to ensure unhampered probe by the National Bureau of Investigation. The PNP Internal Affairs Service automatically is probing too, as required in any police shootout, with or without casualties.

An angle to be looked into is “rido” or clan war, a frequent outbreak in Sulu. The nine cops are locals, as is usual in PNP field staffing. So is slain Corporal Asula. Investigators must scan records for recent civilian clashes and possible kinship to the cops and soldier. In including one of its anti-narcotics operatives in its incident report, the police hints at a drug angle too.

Media have obtained CCTV footage of a man in black seemingly inspecting the four bodies, rearranging positions, and pocketing or handing certain items to companions. “Whoever that mystery man is, there seems tampering of evidence,” Nograles says. “The crime scene was not secured, another breach of PNP standard operating procedures.”

The AFP in Western Mindanao and GHQ maintain that the four soldiers are with intelligence. They were trailing suicide bombers and makers of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf, says Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, WestMinCom chief. Major Indamog and Captain Managuelod were exemplary graduates of the Philippine Military Academy, avers Nograles, who was caretaker-congressman of Sulu’s 1st district in 2018-2019. Indamog had community development projects in his off-hours.

Investigation can establish criminal intent or negligence. The AFP and PNP brass must not stop there. In re-examining SOPs and rules of engagement, the two services can better work together. In Western Mindanao they have a common mission: crush terrorists.

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On insistence of Rep. Rodante Marcoleta Tuesday telecom authorities closed down ABS-CBN’s cable Teleradyo. Unplugged thus was the daily 4:30-5 a.m. mass that Catholics hear online because prevented by C-19 pandemic physically to attend.

Marcoleta is author of House Bill 4633, “An Act Making the Hanging of Religious Mementos, such as Crucifixes, in Hospital Suites Optional.” In Explanatory Note he says, “The crucifix is the most salient representation of the Catholic Church. Its existence in these healthcare institutions presupposes singular church membership... A non-Catholic patient would be ill at ease to find a crucifix hovering in his/her room. It should be a matter of option that such religious mementos be hung inside hospital suites.”

None of the four sections distinguish between private and government hospitals. If enacted, the crucifix would be removed even in Catholic and Protestant-owned hospitals.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

My book “Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government” is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.uk/Expos%C3%A9s-Investigative-Reporting-Clean-Government-ebook/dp/B00EPX01BG

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Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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