Hontiveros seeks relief of entire Jolo police force after deadly bombings
Updated @ 1:15 a.m., Aug. 27, 2020
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called for the relief of the entire police force in Jolo following the deadly bombings that rocked the province of Sulu.
“I am asking the PNP: Relieve the entire Jolo police force so as to remove insinuations that it has been infiltrated by terrorists, so Filipinos can have a sigh of relief. To give the investigation a free hand, the entire Jolo police force must be relieved,” Hontiveros said, speaking partly in Filipino, in her privilege speech during the Senate plenary session.
The senator pointed to the fatal shooting of four military intelligence officers involving nine police officrs last June 29, which she said spurred many theories about the motive of the killing.
“While terrorist attacks — especially when there are deaths — are always galling, this one cuts particularly deep,” Hontiveros said.
“This is because of fresh intelligence reports emerging that the female suicide bombers responsible for the blasts were two subjects of an Army intelligence mission in June, a mission that ended in the killing of four army soldiers at the hands of the Jolo police,” she added.
Philippine Army Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana recently said the two suicide bombers that the slain Army men were trailing were responsible for the two explosions that rocked Jolo, Sulu.
“We cannot turn away from this. The targets of the June 29 mission were two female bombers. Investigations into the August 24 bombing show that it was perpetrated by two female bombers. A straight question: Did terrorist elements somehow influence, directly or indirectly, the killing of the soldiers?” Hontiveros said.
“Did our policemen put Jolo and our nation at greater risk when they not only interfered with Army intelligence operations but they also killed our operatives? How many months and years of intelligence and counter-terrorism effort did we lose on June 29?” she added.
She then underscored the need to dig deeper into the possible motivation for the killing of military intelligence officers.
The National Bureau of Investigation earlier recommended the filing of charges against the nine police officers for the death of Maj. Marvin Indammog, Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Jaime Velasco Jr., and Cpl. Abdal Asula.
They were dispatched by the Joint Intelligence Task Group and the Task Force Sulu after technical intelligence detected the possible location of two female suicide bombers and the maker of their suicide vests.
An investigation by the NBI showed that the police officers simultaneously attacked the Army Intelligence officers without “the opportunity to defend themselves.”’
Contrary to the claims of the police that one of the victims has a gun, the NBI said witnesses said that Indammog did not carry a firearm when he alighted from their vehicle.
‘Suspend 9 Sulu cops’
Hontiveros said the nine police officers involved in the shooting should be preventively suspended, saying it was “highly questionable” why the PNP has not yet done so despite existing protocols.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa earlier told a Senate hearing that he had no power to suspend the nine officers unless they would be found guilty of the charges against them.
But Hontiveros pointed out that preventive suspension was an “explicit mechanism” provided in both the PNP Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998 and the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) manual.
“Since they are not yet suspended, does that mean that these officers – who are accused of killing four soldiers and are now being investigated for possible ties to terrorists — still perform their functions or access intelligence material?” she asked.
“This situation is deeply concerning, and it poses risks to our national security. We need more decisiveness from the PNP. We need accountability and justice,” she added.
The senator also called for a full investigation “with no-cover ups” into the twin bombing incidents in Jolo.
She said that the “full truth, no matter how ugly or inconvenient” behind the two incidents — the shooting of the four military men and the bombings — must be exposed.
The investigation on the Jolo blasts should also touch upon the deaths of the four army intelligence operatives who were shot by policemen, according to Hontiveros.
“The PNP leadership knew there was coordination. Right at the checkpoint, the Jolo police knew that those riding the sports utility vehicle were military personnel, and that was made known to the officials of the PNP,” she said.
“So if the police knew that those in the vehicle were troops, why did they shoot them?” she added.
In response to the Hontiveros’ privilege speech, Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said insisting on the theory that the nine police officers might have conspired with the suicide bombers being tracked by the slain military officers would “rub more salt to injury.”
He added that this could also “demoralize” the police in the area.
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