Hold departure order vs released Jolo cops underway

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) — The Department of Justice has called for the filing of an urgent motion to issue a hold departure order against the nine policemen involved in the shooting incident that left four Army intelligence personnel dead in Jolo, Sulu.

In a statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has directed prosecutors of a Sulu court to file the motion against the nine dismissed cops, who were recently released from police custody.

With a hold departure order underway, the accused will not be allowed to leave the country.

READ: Dismissed cops involved in Jolo shooting incident released from PNP custody 

"The DOJ prosecutors filed the criminal information against the 9 police officers last January 4. The court was supposed to issue the warrants of arrest thereafter, but apparently failed to do so because of the current lockdown in Sulu," Guevarra said in a text message.

He added: "In the meantime, I have instructed the prosecutors to file an urgent motion in court for the issuance of a hold-departure order against all the accused."

According to Guevarra, the nine police officers were released from custody despite requests of the DOJ "to hold them awhile until the arrest warrants were issued."

He also expressed hope that the accused would voluntarily turn themselves in.

"Otherwise, law enforcement agencies will look for them and take them into custody," Guevarra explained.

On Monday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said AFP Chief-of-Staff General Gilbert Gapay is "extremely disappointed" with the release of the policemen.

The Sulu provincial police office initially said the cops claimed self-defense, but later in a Senate investigation, the accused officers admitted they were not sure who fired first between them and the intelligence agents.

The National Bureau of Investigation has also filed murder and planting of evidence charges against the cops involved.