The Philippine army chief yesterday expressed outrage over the fatal police shooting of four soldiers, including two officers, and demanded justice, as both sides provided contrasting accounts of the killings.
Philippine Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Eduardo Ano, a retired military chief of staff who now oversees the national police, ordered that the police involved in Monday’s violence in Jolo in Sulu Province be disarmed and restricted for investigation.
Police said the soldiers were killed in a “misencounter” with a group of police officers.
The army said that the two officers and two enlisted men were on a mission against Abu Sayyaf militants, including suspected suicide bombers, when they were flagged down and later fatally shot by police without provocation, even after the soldiers identified themselves.
An army statement said its commanding general, Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, “is enraged” and vowed “there will be no letup in our quest for truth and justice.”
“This is a very unfortunate incident that should have not happened,” Ano said.
He said he would ask the National Bureau of Investigation, Manila’s counterpart to the FBI, to carry out an inquiry.
An initial police report said Jolo police were on patrol with anti-narcotics agents in Bus-Bus village when they spotted an SUV with “four armed male persons,” whom they stopped.
The four were directed to drive to the Jolo police station “for verification,” but when they arrived there, “the said persons fled,” the report said.
Police chased the four, who got out and pointed their guns at police.
“Before they could pull the trigger, the Philippine National Police personnel were able to shoot them in defense,” sparking an exchange of shots that killed “the four suspects,” the police said.
Gapay said that police at a checkpoint flagged down the four soldiers, who properly identified themselves, but the police later “approached and fired upon them for still unknown reasons.”
Citing eyewitnesses, Gapay said “no altercation transpired between the two parties nor was there any provocation on the part of army personnel to warrant such carnage.”
An army officer with knowledge of what happened told The Associated Press that while being tailed by a van of policemen, the soldiers stopped and one of the officers got out of their SUV with his hands up, apparently to indicate he had no hostile intent.
The police opened fire and killed the four, said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
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