Four soldiers dead in Jolo 'shooting' incident with PNP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — Four Army intelligence personnel, including two officers, were killed when they were fired upon by policemen in Jolo, Sulu Monday afternoon, 11th Infantry Division commander MGen Corleto Vinluan said.

The police, however, have a different version of the incident.

An initial report from the Sulu Provincial Police Office said members of the Jolo Municipal Police Station and the Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit Sulu were patrolling Barangay Bus-Bus when they spotted a vehicle with four "armed" men. They were instructed to go to the Jolo Municipal Police Station for questioning. But upon arriving at the station, they allegedly defied the order and fled.

A chase ensued but when they were collared in an area in downtown Jolo, those onboard the the vehicle disembarked and pointed their firearms at the police, according to the report.

The police report further indicated that those subject for investigation "lifted and pointed their firearms towards the PNP (Philippine National Police) personnel."

"However, before they could pull the trigger, the PNP personnel were able to shoot them in defense, thus an exchange of gunfire ensued which resulted in the death of the four suspects," the report said.

But in a phone interview, Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana defended those on board the vehicle saying they were AFP personnel assigned to the 11th Infantry Division and were on an "official mission."

Vinluan, on the other hand, insisted that the incident was not a misencounter since his troops were "unarmed."

"(They) were gunned down by the PNP," Vinluan said in a text message to CNN Philippines.

Sobejana said the vehicle the soldiers were riding was initially stopped at a PNP checkpoint where they immediately identified themselves as soldiers, and the parties agreed to have the soldiers go to the police station to clear things.

Citing "several versions" of the incident, Sobejana said he does not know why the soldiers ended up being fired upon by the cops and is asking the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate what really happened.

"I also requested the NBI to investigate to ensure impartiality. We don't want any escalation of hostilities out of the incident. Our interest is to know the facts and justice is given," he added.

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the incident was "very unfortunate," however he said he would not give additional comments while an inquiry was ongoing.

"No additional comment muna while inquiry is ongoing. Very hazy pa dumadating na report — incident report pa lang [Incoming reports are still very hazy — just an incident report]. The NBI in Zamboanga will conduct inquiry," he said

In a statement on Monday evening, Sobejana said, "We are yet to establish the motive of the police."

They are also asking the public not to sensationalize the incident, adding they will wait for the completion of the investigation.

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.