AFP to assess tactics, procedures after Jolo incident

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said it will review its existing protocols to see if these are in need of improvements following the unfortunate incident involving a group of policemen and soldiers in Jolo, Sulu.

In a statement, AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said the AFP chief of staff General Felimon Santos Jr. and Philippine National Police chief Police General Archie Gamboa have agreed to revisit each Technique, Tactics, and Procedure (TTPs) to “determine if these are current and are followed religiously to prevent the incident from happening again.”

On Monday, June 29, four soldiers were killed after they were accosted by local police officers.

The Philippine Army earlier said the four men, who were wearing civilian clothes, were on an official mission when they were spotted by police officers on patrol.

When questioned by cops, the four men allegedly introduced themselves as members of the AFP. They were then asked to proceed to the Jolo Municipal Police Station for verification.

However, initial police report said the soldiers attempted to escape prompting police to give chase. When the men got off their vehicle, they allegedly pointed their firearms at the police, which prompted the cops to fire at them, resulting in their death.

But Philippine Army Commanding General Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay criticized the spot report of the police, calling it “fabricated,” and “full of inconsistencies.” He also tagged the incident as a “rubout” and “murder” after noting that the soldiers did not try to escape and never fired a single shot towards police officers.

According to Arevalo, Gapay’s comments on the incident were based from “a learned evaluation of information” that were presented to him.

“His point of view is supported by spot reports and eye-witness accounts of two civilians and of a motorcycle-riding soldier who was part of the operation trailing the SUV boarded by the four intelligence personnel,” he said.

While there is an initial result of the autopsy, Arevalo said the AFP will not reveal it yet to avoid preempting its announcement.

The slain soldiers were given military arrival honors when their remains were brought at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on Tuesday afternoon.

“We share the grief of LTGen Gapay and his call for an impartial and thorough investigation and his quest for justice as he minced no words in calling for accountability and liability for those involved in the incident,” he added.

Arevalo also shared that as a way forward and apart from the yearning for justice, AFP chief Santos has tasked members of the staff and subordinate commanders to ensure that these soldiers who died in line of duty will be given the assistance, benefits, and entitlements due them.

The military also hopes for a swift yet thorough investigation of the incident, with the express cooperation of the PNP and the AFP.

“While we are in search for truth and justice, we are also mindful not to allow the enemies of the state to take advantage of the incident to create a divide between the AFP and the PNP,” Arevalo said.

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