‘Not a misencounter’: Sulu cops tried to cover up soldier killings, says PH Army

Three of the four slain Philippine Army soldiers arrive at the Villamor Military Airbase on June 30. <i>Photo: Philippine Army/ FB</i>
Three of the four slain Philippine Army soldiers arrive at the Villamor Military Airbase on June 30. Photo: Philippine Army/ FB

Jolo police’s killing of four soldiers was not a case of misencounter, the Philippine Army’s spokesman said today, who alleged that the cops quickly filed a report to cover their misdeed.

The soldiers were following the trail of a terrorist rebel group when they were spotted by the police at a checkpoint in the village of Walled City on Monday. Despite identifying themselves as members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the cops ordered them to go to a police station to prove their identities.

Upon arrival at the station, the police alleged that the soldiers fled, leading to a chase. When the police caught up with them, the soldiers allegedly tried to shoot the cops, and the latter group said they had to fight back out of self-defense. All four soldiers died from what the police had called a misencounter.

Read: PH Army demands investigation into cops’ killing of 4 soldiers in Sulu

“First of all we don’t agree with the use of [the term] misencounter,” Army spokesman Col. Ramon Zagala told news cable channel ANC.

He said a misencounter is a situation where two allies engage in combat after mistaking the other for the enemy. This was not the case in Jolo.

“We believe [that] this is not a misencounter. In the first checkpoint if they had doubts [about the soldier’s identities], they should have held them there and requested for [the soldiers’] colleagues [whom] they know to proceed at the checkpoint and then they will be verified,” he said.

Zagala speculated that the police officers knew that they had killed soldiers, as they had quickly filed a report and left when soldiers came within an hour after the incident to investigate the killing.

“We don’t believe in the version of this police officer that within one hour of the incident, they were able to file the report…[then] they left [the crime scene],” he said.

“If you claimed that you killed suspected armed men, why did you leave? They knew that they were military,” the spokesman said.

Zagala said that the fallen soldiers, led by Major Marvin Indammog, complied with the cops when they were told to proceed to the police station. He added that Indammog spoke Filipino, which should indicate that he was not a native of the area, and therefore part of the military.

He said that the military operation was “properly coordinated” with the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“We are really perplexed why the police did this. The PNP is our partner in anything we do. We have shared responsibilities and goals and mission, especially in this one, terrorism. We are saddened by this. We’re not generalizing the whole PNP, just in this incident,” the spokesman said.

Yesterday, PNP spokesman Brigadier General Bernard Banac said that the policemen did not know that the four slain men were soldiers.

The policemen are currently detained in their quarters at the Jolo Municipal Police Station while the National Bureau of Investigation is probing the case.

The remains of Indammog, 39, Cpt. Irwin B. Managuelod, 33, Sgt. Jaime M. Velasco, 38, were received by their families, and Army Chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City yesterday. While the body of Cpl. Abdal Asula, 33,  was left in Sulu where his burial rites will be held.

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