MANILA— The Philippine National Police has fired nine of its officers tagged in the shooting death of 4 soldiers at a checkpoint in Sulu last year— an incident that had driven a wedge between the police and military.
PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas said the 9 officers have been released from custody as they face criminal charges, with warrants of arrest pending. He urged the Department of Justice to expedite proceedings on the case.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana welcomed the move, saying he hopes that both the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines learn from the incident.
“Moving forward, we hope that the AFP and PNP learn from this incident and take concrete steps to prevent such things from happening in the future,” Lorenzana said.
The shooting happened at a checkpoint near a police station on June 29, 2020, when a group of soldiers were pursuing 2 suicide bombers who were later identified as those behind the twin explosions in Jolo town.
Police earlier alleged the soldiers, who were not wearing their uniform and were on board a sports utility vehicle, had sped past the checkpoint and pointed their guns at them, prompting the clash.
The Philippine Army, meanwhile, said the shooting incident was "murder" as its soldiers identified themselves at the checkpoint and complied with the cops' request to stop by the police station.
The National Bureau of Investigation found in its probe that all bullet shells were from the policemen's firearms.
In July, the NBI filed murder and planting of evidence charges against the 9 police officers. In September, the PNP-Internal Affairs Service also filed administrative cases against 3 top Sulu police officials over the incident.
Meanwhile, Lorenzana also symphatized with the families of the dismissed cops.
“Their families are as much a victim of the incident as the families
of the soldiers who were killed,” said Lorenzana.
— report from Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News