MANILA - The chief of the Philippine National Police on Thursday rejected the call of 2 senators for the removal of police officers in Jolo, Sulu following the twin bombings that killed at least 15 people there.
“Unless there is sufficient evidence establishing criminal involvement or administrative lapses leading to the attack, the PNP maintains full confidence in our ground personnel,” police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa told reporters.
The 2 female bombers who carried out Monday's attack at the Jolo town plaza were the same targets of 4 soldiers before they were gunned down by 9 policemen in the southern town last June, military officials earlier said.
The military is investigating suspected blood ties between the 9 officers and the bombers, Western Mindanao Command chief Major General Corleto Vinluan Jr.
Following this revelation, Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called for the suspension of the entire Jolo police force.
Hontiveros earlier Thursday urged Gamboa to "lead the PNP with more decisiveness" by sacking the Jolo officers, before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56 next month.
"Habang hindi sila suspendido (while they are not yet suspended), does that mean that these officers are still performing their functions and still accessing intelligence materials? [That is] deeply concerning in terms of risk to our national security," she said in an ANC interview.
Instead, Gamboa said he has ordered the Bangsamoro police and the Special Action Force to deploy more officers in Jolo.
The PNP will also help analyze the bomb signature from Monday's attack to help identify perpetrators.
The military had said the bombers were widows of militants who had worked for the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf terror group.
Abu Sayyaf bomb expert Mundi Sawadjaan could have been the attack's mastermind. He is also blamed for the January 2019 suicide bombing that killed 21 people at a Jolo church, said Vinluan.
Suicide attacks were once very rare in the Philippines, but since July 2018 there have been 5, including the latest blasts.
- With reports from Zhander Cayabyab , ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse