‘Matrix’ links to drug syndicate one of 4 Army men killed in Sulu – police
MANILA, Philippines — One of the four Army soldiers killed in a controversial shooting in Jolo, Sulu last June had links to a drug syndicate, according to Brig. Gen. Manuel Abu, chief of the Bangsamoro Police Regional Office.
During a hearing of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, Abu presented slides that showed “notable statements” during the meeting of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Board of Inquiry (BOI) only days after the shooting.
Among these statements included that of Col. Michael C. Bawayan Jr., police director of the Sulu Provincial Police Office.
According to Abu’s presentation, Bawayan had presented during the BOI meeting a “drug matrix” linking Cpl. Adbal Asula to a drug syndicate.
“Accordingly, he [Bawayan] came to know about the link of Cpl. Asula when they were able to know the names of the four victims,” Abu said.
“Several relatives of Corporal Asula were arrested and some were killed by the PDEU [Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit] in Sulu in the conduct of anti-illegal drug operations earlier,” he added.
According to Abu, Asula’s brother was killed by PDEU personnel in an operation last March 14.
Asula and three other Army intelligence officers were tracking two suicide bombers when they were gunned down by nine police officers last June 29.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had filed a murder complaint against the nine police officers, who were all physically present during the Senate hearing.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay told the committee that he would also present slides to refute “inconsistencies” in Abu’s presentation.
“So, as I said earlier, there are some speculations here, inconsistencies,” Gapay said.
But the AFP chief was not able to make his presentation since the committee, which made use of the session hall for the hearing, was asked to wrap up its inquiry to make way for the plenary session.
Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, chair of the committee, apologized to Gapay but said he already had a copy of the latter’s presentation.
Dela Rosa said he would share Gapay’s presentation to other members of the Senate panel.
Earlier in the hearing, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, asked the NBI if the shooting had any links to the illegal drug trade or other criminal activities.
In response to Hontiveros’ query, lawyer Zulikha Degamo of the NBI’s Death Investigation Division emphasized that evidence would yet have to be presented linking the shooting to other illegal activities.
“As far as the bureau is concerned, we would like to emphasize that the investigation is actually focused on the murder, the shooting incident in Jolo,” Degamo said.
“As regards [to the] allegations on illegal drugs, as also may be found in news reports, the bureau would like to say and emphasize that we do not possess confirmed intelligence as regards to that information,” she added.
“At this point, the bureau would like to defer commenting on those matters,” Degamo added.
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