Around two or three eyewitnesses have come forward to the National Bureau of Investigation as the agency probes the fatal shooting incident in Jolo, Sulu that killed 2 Army officials and 2 enlisted personnel Monday afternoon.
Ferdinand Lavin, the spokesperson of NBI, said Wednesday agents from NBI Western Mindanao immediately conducted an ocular inspection of the crime scene at downtown Jolo, upon their arrival on Tuesday.
They have also found two or three eye-witnesses who claimed that they were near the site when the shooting happened.
However, Lavin said statements of the witnesses should be properly assessed and counter-checked from the pieces of tangible evidence collected so far.
“What I understand is mayroon na kaming naka-secure na witnesses. I think 2 or 3 witnesses. That much I can tell you," Lavin said.
"When we say we are already in custody of witnesses, we have to evaluate and assess the statement of the witnesses. We do not take this per statement, na maniwala na lang kami," he added.
NBI agents have also started scouring for CCTV footage in some establishments and houses near the shooting site.
Upon arrival at the Villamor Airbase late Tuesday, three of the four bodies of the slain soldiers were immediately processed by forensic experts of NBI for autopsy and paraffin test.
This would determine the exact cause of death of the soldiers, and somehow answer the question of whether they pulled the trigger of their firearms during the incident.
The remains of the other soldier were not processed for autopsy and paraffin test, as he was buried immediately in Sulu following Islamic traditions.
“We have already processed the three cadavers - the Major, the Captain and the one enlisted personnel. The other one was a Muslim, was not brought to Manila. (The three) were brought to Villamor (airbase) yesterday afternoon. And then immediately, they were processed by forensic team of NBI Manila, upon request of our Regional Director in Western Mindanao,” Lavin said.
He assured the investigation will be impartial and objective, telling both sides - the Sulu Police personnel and the soldiers - that they will be heard.
“Wala namang timeline ito because this has to be a very exhaustive and thorough investigation. Remember we have to prevent the escalation of the situation. That’s why 'yung team immediately step into the investigation, a day after the incident," Lavin said.
Police Colonel Michael Bawayan, the director of Sulu Provincial Police Office, said he welcomed the third-party investigation led by NBI.
He said this would erase doubts on the integrity and credibility of investigation reports.
“Sila ang mag-i-investigate para naman ano hindi na makulayan. Kung kami kasi, baka sabihin nila bias ba. So mas maganda din yan," Bawayan said.
The provincial police chief declined to comment further on the details of the shooting incident.
Based on police report, the four slain soldiers were on board a vehicle when they were flagged down by police personnel who were manning a security checkpoint in Jolo.
Accordingly, the soldiers drew their gun first, triggering the fatal shooting incident.
However, these claims were refuted by Army chief Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, saying the report was fabricated.