MANILA (UPDATE) - The commanding general of the Philippine Army has sought the relief of the chiefs of the Jolo town police and the Sulu provincial police office over the police killings of four soldiers during an operation at the rebel stronghold on Monday.
Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay invoked command responsibility in seeking the removal of the town and provincial police chiefs "at the bare minimum."
“This was not a misencounter. This was murder. This was a rubout," said Gapay Tuesday, as bodies of three of the slain soldiers were flown to Manila. One has been buried in Sulu.
The four soldiers, all intelligence operatives, were tracking 2 suspected suicide bombers from the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group when their van were flagged down by police at a checkpoint.
Gapay said while the soldiers cooperated, they were still shot dead. He said the men were not armed.
Police had claimed the soldiers, who were not in uniform, sped past the checkpoint and drew their guns at the officers, prompting them to fire.
Gapay said this claim was “fabricated, parang sine (like in the movies).”
“Hindi pa nga tapos 'yung kay Ragos. Wala pa ngang nangyayari doon. Tapos ito na naman?”
(The case involving [retired soldier Winston] Ragos is not yet finished. Nothing has happened there yet. And now this?)
He was referring to the former Army officer's fatal shooting at a quarantine checkpoint in Quezon City on April 21 involving a police officer.
Ragos was known to have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A witness and his sister said Ragos was unarmed during the shooting.
- with reports from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News