Rodrigo Duterte wants to talk with the police officers involved in the shooting incident that led to the death of four Army intelligence personnel in Jolo, Sulu, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said.
“The President will talk with the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) commanders in Western Mindanao. He will also find time to talk with the nine PNP suspects. It’s the discretion of PRRD to talk to them. His guidance is to observe the due process and let justice run its course,” Año said in a Viber message Wednesday.
He, however, said details on the matter cannot be revealed for security reasons.
Año said Duterte has given instructions “to make a full-blown investigation (and) he also wanted to know what happened”.
The policemen involved have been already disarmed and currently restricted at the Sulu provincial police office, he added.
“We will make sure that first of all justice will really prevail but of course there is a process, so we will also ensure that the due process is observed,” Año told reporters in a phone interview.
Año personally knows the slain personnel during his stint as commander of the Army’s Intelligence Security Group and Army’s assistant chief of staff for intelligence.
“I know them, kilala ko sila, alam ko kung papaano sila magtrabaho, mag-operate, he said.
Año reminded Philippine Army (PA) chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay to be mindful of making comments over the incident.
“First of all, we understand the sentiment of Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay. But I’m also reminding him to be sensible in pronouncing or making any statement because it might add fuel to the situation,” said Año, a former AFP chief-of-staff, and PA commander.
Gapay on Tuesday described the death of the four soldiers as “murder and rubout” as he disputed police claims that it was a misencounter because the troops did not fire a single shot.
He also asked for the relief of Jolo police chief Lt. Col. Walter Annayo and Col. Michael Bawayan, Sulu provincial police commander, due to command responsibility.
As for Bawayan’s fate, Año said he would first wait for the results of the probe before making a decision.
“Right now, I don’t think so. Let’s wait for the result of the investigation but right now, he has a very important role there, he has to ensure no violence will break out there,” he added.
Citing eyewitness accounts, Año said there was no shootout between the police officers and the soldiers.
“May mga available eyewitnesses na nagsasabi na wala naman talagang shootout at ito talaga ay isang rubout. Wala namang hawak na baril ‘yung Army operatives at sinasabi ng mga ating eyewitnesses na pinagbabaril na lang talaga itong mga sundalo. That’s the report of some of the eyewitnesses whose statements are being taken by investigators,” he said.
Considering that the situation in Sulu is “tense”, he said the killing of the soldiers “without any reason” is no joke.
“Kahit na sabihin pa na hindi nagkaroon ng coordination o tamang coordination, we just don’t shoot people, kahit ‘yan ay civilian, o kahit ‘yan ay kalaban pa, na hindi nakakapag-cause ng danger sa ‘yo. ‘Di mo talaga basta-basta babarilin ang mga ‘yan,” Año said.
Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region regional director Brig. Gen. Manuel Abu ordered Annayo’s relief.
Abu said Lt. Col. Fillmore Calip, former chief of 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company, will replace Annayo, who will be sent to the Sulu Provincial Police Office while the investigation is ongoing.