By Manny Mogato, News5 editor-at-large
(June 29, 2020) – A police team gunned down four soldiers who were tracking down two suspected pro-Islamic State militants in a troubled island in the southern Philippines, an army general said on Monday.
Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, confirmed the killing of two military officers – a major and a captain – and two enlisted personnel in Jolo by a group of police officers who chased the soldiers’ vehicle after passing through a checkpoint.
“Whatever is the reason they were shot by the policemen, we’re having that investigated,” said Sobejana. “What we are sure of is that the four soldiers were doing their job. They were on official mission. As to the reason they were fired upon, that’s should be investigated by the NBI. They (NBI) are ready for the investigation.”
Sobejana said the soldiers were aboard a Montero sports utility vehicle when they were fired upon by the policemen past 2 p.m, quoting an initial report from the Army’s 11th Infantry Division.
In a separate police report, police officers and a team from Philippine Drug Enforcement Unit-Sulu personnel were on patrol in Bus-bus in Jolo town when they spotted four armed men on board the SUV at around 2:40 p.m.
It said the men introduced themselves as policemen and were directed to proceed to the Jolo police station for verification. Upon reaching the police station, the men escaped aboard their vehicle.
“When the PNP personnel chased them, the report said persons disembarked at their vehicle with their firearms. They pointed their guns towards the police team who fired at the armed men.
But Sobejana said there are “several versions” of the incident. He said he was told there was no gun battle and the soldiers were killed inside the vehicle.
The soldiers even introduced themselves as army men tracking down a group of suspected bombers in the area, a military source said.
He said the army major got out of the car but was immediately shot by the police. His companions were not able to react and were also shot inside the car.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said: “Very unfortunate incident. No additional comment for the meantime while inquiry is ongoing. The report that are coming in are very hazy, only incident report. The NBI in Zamboanga will conduct inquiry.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano also asked the NBI to investigate the incident.
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