Mournful Duterte wants meeting with cops tagged in fatal shooting of troops – Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 1) — President Rodrigo Duterte has sought a meeting with the nine police officers involved in the fatal shooting of four military troops in Jolo, Sulu, his spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a transcript released by Malacañang, said Duterte asked Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to arrange the meeting.

He added Duterte was distraught after finding out about the incident. He said the President wants to go to Jolo to boost the morale of the military personnel who are mourning the loss of their fellow troops.

"Lungkot na lungkot siya. Ang ginamit nga niyang salita ay siya ay nanlambot, extremely sad at gusto niya na pumunta mismo doon sa lugar kung saan nangyari, kung pupuwede, dahil gusto niyang ma-lift ang morale ng kasundaluhan dahil talagang parang mababa ang morale ng ating mga kasundaluhan. Hindi daw dapat nagpapatayan, nag-i-engkuwentro ang parehong ideolohiya," Roque said in an interview with "Unang Hirit."

[Translation: He was very sad. He said he felt weak and extremely sad. He said he wants to go to the crime scene to lift the morale of soldiers because they died in the hands of the same people who share their ideology.]

Four Army men, including two officers, were killed in a police operation in Jolo, Sulu on Monday. Initial reports from the Sulu Provincial Police Office said the cops involved claimed self-defense, after the soldiers supposedly lifted and pointed their firearms first at the police. But Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay denied it was a misencounter, saying it was a rubout and his men were "murdered" by the police personnel.

Roque added Duterte asked the National Bureau of Investigation to speed up investigation into the incident. The NBI’s regional office in Zamboanga that is handling the probe was given 10 days to submit its initial report, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Duterte also hopes this is the last misencounter in his term, which is set to end June 30, 2022, his spokesman said.

"Sabi niya, sana ito na ang huling misencounter sa kaniyang termino," Roque recalled.

Not the first time

This incident was not the first “misencounter” among government security forces.

In 2002, Sulu police figured in an “accidental firefight” with members of the Philippine Marines in Jolo, which also resulted in the deaths of some civilians.

Some members of the Army also faced investigation in 2018 following a supposed misencounter with six policemen in Sta. Rita town in Samar.

The Philippine National Police, for its part, vowed to implement protocols and measures— including proper coordination and communication with AFP counterparts— to ensure that the incident will not happen again.

“This thing could have been prevented, this is a very big lesson to us. We’ll take this very seriously so that this won’t happen again,” spokesman Bernard Banac said.