MANILA, Philippines — A Facebook post of former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya sparked anger among netizens against alleged members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the video.
The former military chief himself criticized what he called as mishandling of the crime scene by alleged cops in the video.
The post was shared around 10,000 times and has drawn nearly 2,000 comments against the PNP.
But according to the Police Regional Office in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR) Director PBGen. Manuel Abu, the men in the video were actually Army personnel in civilian clothes who first responded to the shooting site.
He said, even the person who entered the vehicle and moved the bodies of the victims was a soldier.
“Iyon ang masaklap kasi nagresponde ang mga sundalo, kinuha nila ang mga laman, kaya pati mga baril pinagkukuha nila,” Abu explained.
(That’s the problem because the soldiers responded to the scene, moved the bodies, and took the victims’ firearms.)
“Hindi na hinintay iyong SOCO. Ibig sabihin baka wala silang alam o baka may itinatago,” he added.
(They did not wait for the SOCO [Scene of the Crime Operatives]. Either they were ignorant of the procedures or they were hiding something.)
The Philippine Army admitted that the men in the video were indeed soldiers and according to Army Spokesperson Col. Ramon Zagala, the one who moved a body and placed a pillow behind its head was actually the brother of the victim, Cpl. Abdal Asula.
“They checked ang pulse kung may buhay and then secured the vehicle. So from take down team to rescue to recovery at makikita mo rin sa video na parang bumubukas ang pinto. Iyong bumubukas na pinto iyon ay brother ng isa naming operative,” Zagala explained.
(They checked the pulse if there was sign of life and then they secured the vehicle. So from take down to rescue to recovery, you will see in the video that someone was opening the door. That person is the brother of one of our operatives.)
“Kasi alam niya na ang brother niya ay iyong driver. So out of his instinct, sinu-sure niya ang gamit ng brother niya,” he added.
(Because he knew that his brother was the driver. So out of instinct, he was securing his brother’s belongings.)
But Abu said the PNP might file cases against the soldiers for intruding into the shooting site.
“Baka pakasuhan ko pa nga sila ng obstruction of justice kasi pagka-ganyan na may namatay na hindi dapat guluhin ang encounter site. Ginulo nila,” the official said.
(I might even file charges against them for obstruction of justice considering that there were fatalities. The encounter site shouldn’t be touched. They messed it up.)
Based on the PNP’s version, the nine police suspects were still in the area when the responding soldiers arrived.
However, they chose to keep distance in fear of another gunfight.
“Nine lang ang mga pulis na involved. They were in uniform. Nang dumating iyang mga nagresponde na Army na mga nakasibilyan, natakot ang mga pulis. Pumwesto sa gilid gilid kasi galit na galit ang mga Army. Baka magkabarilan ulit,” Abu noted.
(Only nine policemen were involved. They were in uniform. When the responding Army team in civilian clothes arrived, the policemen became anxious. They positioned themselves at the sides as the soldiers were very furious. They feared starting another gunfight.)
But AFP Western Mindanao Command Spokesperson Major Arvin Encinas has a different version of what happened, saying the police suspects fled the scene before the responding soldiers arrived.
“Right after nila binaril yung tropa, tumakas naman yung mga pulis na yun, umalis supposedly kung talagang hinabol nila eh di kinordon nila yung area,” Encinas said.
(Right after they gunned down our troops, they fled. Supposedly, if the police were indeed chasing the soldiers, they should have cordoned the area.)
“Pero right after na binaril nila, tumakas sila sa scene. Umalis,” he added.
(But right after they shot the soldiers, they fled from the scene. They escaped.)
The investigation on the incident is ongoing but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Interior Secretary Eduardo Año already has a copy of the initial result of the investigation being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). —MNP (with details from Lea Ylagan)
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