MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has appealed to government troops to "calm down" and let a third party investigate the killing of 4 soldiers by policemen in the rebel stronghold of Sulu province, his spokesperson said Saturday.
Duterte on Friday met separately with commanders of the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines over the bloodbath on Monday that spurred contradicting accounts of who fired the first shot, said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
"Iisa lang ho ang naging mensahe ng ating Presidente: Sisiguraduhin niya na magkakaroon po ng katarungan, makukulong at parurusahan lahat ng mga nagkasala tungkol po dito," Roque said in a video message.
(Our President had only one message: He will ensure that there would be justice, that all those who committed offenses here would be imprisoned and punished.)
"Sabi ng Presidente na he is appealing to both PNP and the AFP na huminahon. Ang kaniyang plea po ay bigyan ng pagkakataon na mag-imbestiga ang NBI (National Bureau of Investigation)," he added.
(The President said he is appealing to both PNP and the AFP to calm down. His plea is to give the NBI a chance to investigate.)
Police earlier said the soldiers who were not wearing their uniform and were on board a sports utility vehicle sped past a checkpoint at a residential area in Jolo town. They allegedly pointed their guns at policemen, which prompted the clash.
Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay denied this, calling the incident a "rubout." He said the soldiers cooperated and identified themselves as military personnel but police still fired at them.
Duterte, known for his affinity for state forces, on Friday said he was "not ready to condemn anybody" over the incident that stoked "animosity" between the police and military.
"There is an investigation and I am giving you my word of honor that the investigation will proceed to find out the truth unfettered, unbridled by anybody," he told soldiers in Zamboanga City.