Army chief’s remarks on Sulu incident based on ground info: AFP

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Philippine Army (PA) chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay’s comments on the incident where four soldiers were shot and killed by police officers in Sulu were based from a “learned evaluation of information” that was presented to him, the Armed of the Philippines (AFP) said on Wednesday.

“His (Gapay) point of view is supported by spot reports and eyewitness accounts of two civilians and of a motorcycle-riding soldier who was part of the operation trailing the SUV (sports utility vehicle) boarded by the four intelligence personnel,” AFP spokesperson Marine Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a message to reporters.

While there is an initial result of the autopsy of the troops’ remains, Arevalo said the AFP would not reveal it to avoid preempting its announcement.

“We share the grief of Lt. Gen. Gapay and his call for an impartial and thorough investigation and his quest for justice as he minced no words in calling for accountability and liability for those involved in the incident,” he added.

Arevalo said both AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa have agreed to revisit each Technique, Tactics, and Procedure (TTPs) to determine if these are current and are followed religiously to prevent the incident from happening again.

Arevalo’s remarks were echoed by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

“He is just repeating the reports he got from our people on the ground. Of course, the event happened just the other day and emotions are high among the Army troops. The Army leadership in Sulu are trying hard to calm their people while inquiry is going on,” he said in a message to reporters.

Lorenzana, however, said he would wait first for the results of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probe before commenting on whether the incident was a case of “murder” or “rubout”.

“It’s not good to speculate. The accounts from both sides are conflicting. Let’s wait for the NBI investigation,” he added.

Gapay earlier tagged the incident as a “rubout” after noting that the four soldiers did not try to escape after being accosted by policemen and drew their weapons after being cornered.

Lorenzana, meanwhile, said Gapay’s calls for the PNP Sulu provincial director and Jolo municipal police station commander to be made accountable for the incident must first be probed.

“While there is the principle of command responsibility, it must be carefully determined how high in the hierarchy should be accountable. It has to stop somewhere,” he added. PNA.GOV.PH