Families of slain troops demand justice as Duterte calls for calm in Jolo shooting aftermath

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 2) — As families of the four Army intelligence personnel killed in Jolo, Sulu grieve their loss and demand accountability, President Rodrigo Duterte and top security officials are appealing for calm among the ranks.

The remains of three of the four Philippine Army intelligence personnel killed in a shooting incident on June 29 lie in state at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani after being flown in from Zamboanga.

For the families of Sergeant Jaime Velasco, 38, and Captain Irwin Managuelod, 33, the loss is too much to bear.

An Army honor guard watches over the casket of Sgt. Jaime Velasco as the fallen soldier's father watches by.

Velasco’s father, who shares his name and profession, said he never forced his children to enlist in the military. He said Jaime found military service as a promising career to provide for his wife and three young daughters.

“Mabait yung anak ko. Bakit ginanyan nila? Kaya yan ang medyo nagpapasama sa loob ko. Nagpakilala na, 'Kabaro lang kita.' Nag-raise-your-hand pa, binanatan pa nila,” he said on Wednesday.

[Translation: My son was kind. Why did they do this to him? Just the thought of it makes me feel depressed. He clearly introduced himself as a soldier. He raised his hand. Yet they still shot him.]

April Joy Managuelod, widow of slain Capt. Irwin Managuelod, speaks with reporters as family members and friends watch on.

April Joy, Captain Managuelod’s widow, is still in shock over what had happened. They were married in September of last year. They were planning their life as a family, but those plans were cut short when Irwin’s name emerged as one of those confirmed killed in what the Philippine National Police calls a “shooting incident.”

“Hindi ko maintindihan bakit kabaro pa,” she says, describing just how traumatic it was knowing what happened to her husband. “Kakapirma lang namin ng marriage certificate, tapos kahapon, death certificate na niya yung pinipirmahan ko,” she said, holding back tears.

[Translation: I don’t understand why it had to be a comrade (who shot him.) We just signed our marriage certificate. Yesterday, it’s already his death certificate I’m fixing my signature on.

Both families only have one demand: That justice be served — and served properly.

“Kung sakaling ano man ang kahitnatnan ng imbestigasyong ito, sana naman yung walang bias ba, na pantay-pantay. Kami pang na-agrabyado, kami pa ang may sala? Hindi makatarungan yung ginawa nila. Sana maparusahan ang dapat maparusahan,” Velasco said.

[Translation: Whatever happens in this investigation, I hope it’s fair and unbiased. We were the ones aggrieved by what happened, yet we are accused of being at fault? What they did is not justifiable. Those who deserve to be punished must be punished.]

“Alam ko po lalabas po talaga ang totoo. Di po kami papabayaan nung mga mistah ni Awen at ng buong Armed Forces,” Irwin’s widow says.

[Translation: I know in the end that the truth will emerge. Awen’s fellow classmates (in the Philippine Military Academy) and the Armed Forces will be there for us.]

The family of Major Marvin Indammog requested for privacy during the wake. Corporal Abdal Asula, who received full military honors, was buried in Sulu to keep with Muslim traditions.

Philippine Army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said the families of all four soldiers will receive pension and funeral assistance.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who visited the wake, also provided assistance to the bereaved families. Other officials who visited were Senator Risa Hontiveros, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and the Army’s commanding general, Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay.

Calling for calm among the ranks

Major General Corleto Vinluan, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu and the Philippine Army’s 11th Infantry Division, said emotions are running high among Army units in Sulu, where the four slain Army personnel were based.

“Nandito ako sa ground. Mahirap yung ground commander na, kapag nakita kang galit ng tropa. Magagalit down the line yan, down to the lowest ranking enlisted personnel, galit na yan. Yun ang delikado,” Vinluan said in a phone interview.

[Translation: I’m here on the ground. It’s difficult for a ground commander to be seen angry by your men. The anger goes down the line, down to the lowest ranking enlisted personnel. Once they get mad, that’s dangerous.”]

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana relayed that President Rodrigo Duterte does not want the issue to escalate further, joining calls from top military and police leaders for calm among the ranks.

“Ang gusto niya, wag nang lumaki. One of these days, kakausapin din niya yung mga tropa sa South,” Lorenzana says, quoting the commander-in-chief. “Sabi niya, “Kakausapin ko yan para di lumaki.”

[Translation: He wants the issue to stop escalating. One of these days, he will talk to troops in the South. He said, “I will talk to them so that the situation diffuses.”]

Duterte has sought for a meeting to talk to the nine police personnel implicated in the shooting incident.

Lorenzana said he has also advised military leaders to “control their people,” saying that an investigation on the incident is now underway.

Both Army Chief Gapay and PNP Chief General Archie Gamboa said that the incident does not affect the relationship between the two armed services.

In a statement, Gamboa appealed for calm over what he called “speculation and misrepresentation of facts, some possibly done on purpose, that tend to erode the police-military unity by driving a wedge between Sulu PNP and 11th ID, Philippine Army.”

Gapay said that the Army will revisit policies such as their Standard Operating Procedures and other policies.

“In order to prevent any similar incidents like these from occurring in the future, I call for sobriety from each and every member of the Philippine Army. Let us all remain steadfast in our quest for truth and justice,” Gapay said in a statement.

CNN Philippines Senior Correspondent David Santos contributed to this report.