Malacañang said Friday President Rodrigo Duterte would have separate meetings with police and military officials to assure them that justice would be served following the death of four soldiers from the guns of policemen in Jolo, Sulu on Monday.
During the Laging Handa program aired on state-run PTV-4, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s visit to Zamboanga City on Friday was meant to boost the morale of the police and the military.
“That’s how important his mission is. He will show his support to the armed forces and the police,” said Roque, scheduled to accompany Duterte in his Mindanao trip.
The President recently directed the National Bureau of Investigation to speed up the investigation into the alleged “misencounter” between members of the PNP and AFP in Jolo that led to the death of four military personnel.
Killed were Maj. Marvin Indammog, 39; Capt. Irwin Managuelod, 33; Sgt. Jaime Velasco, 38; and Col. Abdal Asula, 33.
The four slain troops were tailing four terrorist suicide bombers when the shooting happened.
Roque said Duterte wanted to personally tell the police and the military that he would make sure that the recent incident would be the “last” under his watch.
He said Duterte would hold separate meetings with soldiers and the nine relieved police officers involved in the shooting incident and he would ensure that justice would be served for the four slain soldiers.
“The President will be there to give assurance that justice would be served. If someone commits a wrongdoing, he would be punished because that’s the policy of the administration of President Duterte,” Roque said.
This is the first time Duterte would meet with government troops since the country was hit by the pandemic.
Roque said the Presidential Security Group initially thumbed down Duterte’s plan to hold meetings with the military amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Duterte, however, prevailed and decided to “risk his life” just to check the condition of soldiers and policemen, he said.
Duterte isolated himself in Manila for two months after he imposed an enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon mainland to contain the further spread of COVID-19.
He was able to return to his hometown, Davao City, in May when he relaxed the quarantine restrictions in the country.
Meanwhile, AFP spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo on Friday vowed there would be no let-up in hunting the alleged suicide bombers who had escaped following the Jolo sooting incident.
“The disruption of the operation due to that unfortunate incident was a temporary setback. The entire AFP machinery and infrastructure are still in place and on track,” Arevalo said in a press statement.
“The security and intelligence operations in Sulu continue in full swing up to this very moment. The guidance of the AFP Chief General Felimon Santos, Jr. to the troops: ‘Eyes on the ball,’” he stressed.
For his part, Roque said it was unfortunate the terror suspects managed to escape.
Army chief Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay said the two women suicide bombers were married to the men involved in the suicide bombing attacks in Indanan, also in Sulu, last year.
Gapay said the four intelligence officers were trying to pinpoint the house of the suicide bombers when they were flagged down by police officers. To further verify their identities, the cops ordered them to go to the police station.
A police spot report stated that a shooting incident transpired when the soldiers supposedly escaped and pointed their weapons at the police officers.
The National Bureau of Investigation, tapped to look into the incident, said one of the killed government troops had eight gunshot wounds while three gunshot wounds were found on the other two soldiers.
Gapay described the incident as murder while the Philippine National Police said it was a shooting incident. The PNP Internal Affairs Service is conducting a motu proprio investigation on the incident.
In the Senate, Senator Richard Gordon called on Duterte to conduct a top level investigation on all generals of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army.
“There is a need to investigate and determine what is wrong with the policy that incidents such as these occur,” said Gordon.
Gordon pointed out it was was not a rub-out, but a clear murder. He said the four army officers had no guns.
The senator said he deplored the mendacity and the malice of the police officers which was evidenced in the fact that they tampered with the evidence and the crime scene.
“I am glad that President Duterte has announced that he is going to the slain soldiers’ wake to honor Maj. Marvin Indamog, commanding officer of the Army’s 9th Intelligence Service Unit; Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Eric Velasco and Cpl. Abdal Asula. This would also bring comfort to their bereaved families.
Senator Christopher Go vowed that those responsible would be held accountable.
He promised to provide support to the families of the deceased soldiers on top of the assistance package already provided by the government.
The Office of the President has already given assistance packages for the families of the victims.
For her part, detained Senator Leila de Lima, in a statement from her Camp Crame cell, said the power of the PNP to conduct summary executions without any criminal culpability upon Duterte’s orders “bred and reared monstrous impunity in the past four years.
“It was just a matter of time before this police impunity, recognizing no boundaries, would claim as its latest victims even Army troopers who were previously thought to be safe from marauding PNP hit squads.”