MANILA — The 9 cops tagged in the killing of 4 soldiers in Jolo, Sulu in June last year were released despite the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) request for the Philippine National Police (PNP) to keep them in custody, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday.
“The 9 police officers were released from custody despite requests of the DOJ with the PNP to hold them a while until the arrest warrants were issued,” Guevarra told reporters in a text message.
His statement came a day after PNP Chief Gen. Debold Sinas announced that the 9 cops accused of killing 4 Army intelligence officers in Jolo, Sulu have been dismissed from service and were released from the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame “sometime last week” because of pending arrest warrants.
Sinas said the PNP has been coordinating with the DOJ and is avoiding the possibility of being accused of arbitrary detention.
Philippine criminal rules require that suspects can only be detained without charge for up to 36 hours.
Guevarra said the DOJ is anticipating the issuance of the arrest warrants soon but that the lockdown in Sulu got in the way.
“The DOJ prosecutors filed the criminal information against the 9 police officers last Jan. 4. The court was supposed to issue the warrants of arrest thereafter, but apparently failed to do so because of the current lockdown in Sulu,” he explained.
Prosecution lawyer Honey Delgado, spokesperson of the Office of the Prosecutor General, said the court would have to determine probable cause to issue warrants of arrest.
“If Sulu is still on lockdown, the courts might not be operating in its full capacity -- may or may not slow down the process,” said Delgado.
She explained that criminal charges were not immediately filed against the cops since the complaint went through preliminary investigation.
“There was no inquest proceeding conducted, only preliminary investigation. NBI filed the complaint for preliminary investigation on 21 July 2020,” she said.
The DOJ announced their indictment on Jan. 4.
Police Senior Master Sgt. Abdelzhimar Padjiri, Police Master Sgt. Hanie Baddiri, Police Senior Sgts. Iskandar Susulan, Ernisar Sappal and Admudzrin Hadjaruddin, Police Cpl. Sulki Andaki, and Patrolmen Moh Nur Pasani, Alkajal Mandangan and Rajiv Putalan are facing 4 counts of murder and 1 count of planting of evidence over the June 2020 incident which saw them firing at the vehicle of 4 Army intelligence officers.
Army officers Maj. Marvin Indammog, Cpt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Jaime Velasco and Cpl. Abdal Asula were on the trail of 2 alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The PNP had tried to describe the incident as a misencounter but the Armed Forces of the Philippines denounced it as murder.
The National Bureau of Investigation found the 4 soldiers were shot in the back and that police allegedly planted a firearm beside Indammog's body.