'Murdered': Army Chief cries rubout in fatal police shooting of troops

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 1) — Army Chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay was emotional as he welcomed the remains of the soldiers killed in a controversial police operation in Jolo, Sulu on Tuesday.

Three of the four Army men, who died in the operation on Monday were flown from Zamboanga City to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. The Philippine Army rendered honors for late Major Marvin Indamog, Captain Irwin Managuelod, and Sergeant Eric Velasco. The remains of the fourth slain soldier, Corporal Abdal Asula, were buried in Sulu in compliance with Islamic traditions.

An enraged Gapay addressed the media after the ceremony for the slain troops. He did not mince his words while discussing how the Jolo police reported the incident. He described it as "fabricated, full of inconsistencies, and misleading."

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 to the police. The report added that the incident occurred when the soldiers allegedly tried to flee the police station after they were brought in for questioning.

"With the report, whitewash na kaagad eh! There was no misencounter here. It was a rubout. " he said.

Gapay said as his voice continued to rise, "Masama ang loob namin to what happened to the Army personnel who were murdered by the policemen."

[Translation: You can see the report was whitewashed. We are furious with what happened to the Army personnel who were murdered by the policemen.]

The National Bureau of Investigation will conduct an autopsy on the remains of three soldiers in Manila before these are turned over to their respective families. 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.

Army said at least 9 policemen were part of the operation that killed the troops. The policemen have been disarmed and their movement restricted while the investigation is ongoing.

Gapay also called for the relief of the Sulu Provincial Police Chief and the Jolo municipal police chief, citing command responsibility.

"We're not generalizing the PNP here. We're talking about Jolo PNP here. Heads will roll here and those that will be (found) liable should be punished to the max," he said.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has urged the public not to blow things out of proportion, saying the agency continues to work well with the PNP in strengthening the country’s response against terrorism and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ang gusto po ng dalawang lider ng AFP at PNP, ay huwag na nating palakihin itong insidenteng ito,” AFP Spokesperson Edgard Arevalo said on Tuesday.

[Translation: What the AFP and PNP leaders would want is to not make a big deal out of this incident.]

Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa — who had previously served as chief PNP — also urged ground commanders from both sides to “diffuse tensions and prevent it from escalating” pending results of the probe.