PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has urged soldiers not to lose sight of the “real enemy” as he appealed to government forces to remain calm amid an ongoing investigation into a shooting incident involving police officers that led to the killing of four Army intelligence personnel in Jolo, Sulu early this week.
In his speech during his visit at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City on Friday, Duterte told the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to direct their attention to targeting the New People’s Army (NPA) and Abu Sayyaf Group instead of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Ako dito pumunta (I went here) to make a plea. I am pleading for your understanding at saka pakalmahin mo ang mga tropa (and for your help in calming down the troops). Explain to them their role in the society that the real [enemies are] itong mga NPA pati itong mga Abu Sayyaf (these NPA and Abu Sayyaf),” said Duterte, the commander in chief of both the military and police.
The President said soldiers should not cultivate animosity towards the police, following the shooting incident.
“Nakita ko na hindi nga maganda (I saw that the situation got ugly already). And it has generated so much, maybe hatred, and so much animosity between the two units – the PNP pati ang (and the) Armed Forces of the Philippines – which is not good because, in the end, it would be the people who will bear the brunt,” said the commander in chief.
Duterte asked the soldiers not to retaliate against the police even though he understood what they were feeling.
“Hindi ko kayo mapigilan kung gusto niyo gumanti, kung gusto niyo mag-resbak (I cannot stop you if you want to take revenge, if you want to bring in reinforcements). Go ahead. I will not stop you. But also at the end of the day, just give me one answer: Did the country benefit from furthering the violence?” asked Duterte rhetorically with a twist of reverse psychology. “Would it make the four officers come back to life?”
Duterte said while he was “very sad” and “angry” about the incident, it would be better for both the AFP and the PNP to just await the results of the investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“May nakita akong mali. Nag-neutral na lang ako sa salita ko (I saw an error, but I chose to keep my statements neutral). I have my own misgivings about the whole thing. But pending the [results] of the investigation of the NBI, we all must just keep our silence. And I hope the NBI would find the truth for us. Trabaho nila ‘yan (That’s their job),” he said.
While on the job tailing reported suicide bombers affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf group in Jolo, Sulu on Monday, Maj. Marvin Indammog, Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Jaime Velasco and Cpl. Abdal Asula were shot dead by reportedly nine PNP officers.
Duterte guaranteed that the NBI, once done with its probe, would make public its findings to make everyone “understand the situation.”
“And I’m sure they will not fail me. Kilala ko itong mga ‘to, sila (I know them well). So, sabi ko (I told them to) get the truth. Huwag mong sobrahan, huwag mong kulangan; ‘yung totoo lang (No more, no less; just the truth) because it will save us the trouble,” he said.
Meanwhile, PNP SSg. Almudzrin Hadjaruddin, Pat. Alkajal Mandangan, Pat. Rajiv Putalan, SMs. Abdelzhimar Padjiri, MSg. Hanie U Baddiri, SSg. Iskandar Susulan, SSg. Ernisar Sappal, Cpl. Sulki Andaki and Pat. Mohammad Nur Pasani were disarmed and placed under the custody of the Sulu police, pending the results of the investigation.
Duterte assured the military that the policemen, who were relieved of their posts, would be held accountable if the probe proves they made an error of judgement.
“I’m giving you my word of honor that the investigation will proceed to find out the truth, unbridled by anybody. Walang makikialam at ‘yung totoo lang. ‘Yun ang maaasahan n’yo (No one will interfere, and we will get to the bottom of this. You can count on that). At kung sinuman ang may kasalanan (And if anyone is at fault), then he has to pay for it,” he said, pledging that justice would be rendered.
For now, the commander in chief said personnel of the AFP and PNP should help each other, reminding them of their complementary functions.
“We need the police diyan sa labas (out on the streets) because you take care of insurgency and the more serious problems of the country involving law and order. Itong mga pulis na ito (These policemen), they have the purpose there, and we need them. The Republic of the Philippines needs them,” said the President.