Press Release
August 26, 2020

August 26, 2020

Mr. President, I rise on a point of personal and collective privilege.

Noong isang araw po nagulantang tayong lahat na, sa gitna ng kinakaharap na pandemya, ay may twin bombings na yumanig sa bayan ng Jolo, Sulu. Katorse ang mga inosenteng namatay, habang 48 civilians at 27 na security personnel ang sugatan.

While terrorist attacks -- especially when there are deaths -- are always galling, this one cuts particularly deep. This is because of fresh intelligence reports emerging that the female suicide bombers responsible for the blasts were two subjects of an Army intelligence mission in June, a mission that ended in the killing of four army soldiers at the hands of the Jolo police. This was stated by Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana himself, commanding general of the Philippine army.

As a Senator, as a peace advocate, as a Filipino, I want to know the definitive answers to the questions on everybody's mind:

Ano ang kinalaman ng pagbomba ng Jolo noong August 24, sa pagpatay sa mga sundalo noong June 29? Many theories emerged during the CA hearing also on the same day -- elements of the Abu Sayaaf infiltrating the local police force, links to illegal drugs, clan wars or Rido. Ano ba ang totoo sa mga teyoryang ito?

Did our policemen put Jolo and our nation at greater risk when they not only interfered with Army intelligence operations, they killed our operatives?

How many months and years of intelligence and counter-terrorism effort did we lose on June 29?

I rise Mr. President, because the bombing in Jolo casts new light into the June 29 incident and raises the troubling questions that I asked above.

I have three points.

First, Mr. President, I really believe we need to go deeper into the motivation for the killing of AFP personnel. Already, before; but now, after the bombing, even more so. Ano ang dahilan kung bakit sila pinatay, when all the records indubitably demonstrate that the policemen knew they were dealing with soldiers even from the first checkpoint?

The PDEA Operation Reports Monitoring and Information System show that there was no coordination made by any PNP units in Sulu for an anti-illegal drug operation, but then, when asked to justify their actions, one claim the PNP made was that Cpl. Asula had drug connections and was identified in a drug matrix. Kung hinahabol si Cpl. Asula at drugs ang angle, bakit hindi coordinated sa PDEU?

Or is it something else, Mr. President? Kasi noong CA hearing, during the questioning of the Minority Leader, Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan admitted the possibility of a conspiracy between the terrorist bombers and the members of the police who shot them, saying, "possible yon dahil magkakamag-anak naman sa Sulu."

What lends this theory support is information I have received that on June 29, the soldiers found out that the bombers knew that they were being trailed by the AFP. The soldiers had already been able to narrow down the possible lodging places of the terrorists and were actually closing in on them.

I also have information that the soldiers trusted the PNP. In fact gusto nga sana nila na gamitin ang "house to house tokhang" with the help of barangay officials and PNP para mahanap ang bahay kung saan umuupa ng kwarto ang mga bombers.

Tapos ganito. Tapos papatayin sila, hindi ng kalaban, kundi ng "tropa".

Mr. President, we cannot turn away from this. The targets of the June 29 mission were two female bombers. Investigations into the August 24 bombing show that it was perpetrated by two female bombers. Diretsahang tanong: did terrorist elements somehow influence, directly or indirectly, the killing of the soldiers?

Second, Mr. President. I want to talk about the integrity of evidence. Huwag na natin pag-usapan ang planting of evidence, the NBI has discussed that extensively when it stated that a gun may have been planted in the hand of Major Indammog to corroborate the theory of a firefight.

Pag-usapan natin ang preservation of evidence. According to the rules of the Revised PNP Operational Procedures, specifically PNP S.O.P. No. ODIDM-2011-008, "Conduct of Crime Scene Investigation", "immediately after an armed confrontation, the officer who is in charge of the operation shall... secure the site of confrontation." This includes, Mr. President, the very basic rule that evidence shall not be removed from the crime scene unless it has been labelled, photographed, and documented.

Pero why is it that messaging apps on the cellphone of the late Major Marvin Indammog appear to have a "last seen" time after the moment of his death? Why was custody of the personal effects of the dead soldiers not turned over to the military right away?

These questions are important enough already, in the aftermath of the deaths of our valiant soldiers and persistent accusations of cover-up and whitewashing. They are even more important now, in the aftermath of a bloody terrorist attack. Kung ang tanong lang pagkatapos ng June 29 ay "ano ang tinatago ng kapulisan at bakit parang may cover-up", ngayon, pagkatapos ng pagbomba sa Jolo, ang tanong na ay "mayroon bang military intelligence na napunta na sa kamay ng kalaban?"

Third and last point, Mr. President, with the killings of the police officers and the subsequent terrorist attack killing fourteen, we need to ask "where does the buck stop?" Sapat na ba ang accountability sa level ng local na PNP?

I note, Mr. President, that despite the overwhelming evidence demonstrating prior coordination between the AFP and the PNP, including a meeting on June 25 attended by the Jolo Chief of Police, the PNP leadership continues to maintain that, and I quote, "the incident is not murder or rub-out, as claimed by some quarters, but a legitimate police operation that resulted in an armed encounter." Ang sabi pa, "had there been proper coordination on the part of the AFP with the territorial Police units in the AOR, the said incident could have been avoided."

According to our sources, the PNP leadership knew that there was coordination. In fact, the leadership indubitably knew that PNP personnel were already apprised of the identities of the victims and their designations as military personnel when they were accosted at checkpoint 2. Alam ng PNP na alam ng mga local police sa checkpoint pa lang na military ang nakasakay ng Montero.

Also, why is the PNP leadership saying that police officers cannot be suspended prior to a finding of guilt? It is patently false to suggest that suspension can only come after a guilty verdict, because preventive suspension is an explicit mechanism under Republic Act No. 8551. It is also an explicit mechanism in the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) manual.

But more importantly, the need for preventive suspension of our police officers has taken an urgent turn, in light of the statement of Lieutenant General Vinluan that there may be a conspiracy between the police officers and the terrorists. Sabi ng head ng IAS, the police officers involved will "perform duties as a policeman but their movements will be restricted to ensure their presence in investigations." Ano po ang ibig sabihin ng 'perform duties as a policeman'? They will still have access to police intelligence? They can still participate in operations? In light of the statements of Lieutenant General Vinluan, I am deeply concerned over the risks to our national security.

We need more decisiveness from the PNP leadership. We need remorse for the acts of his men, not justifications unsupported by the evidence. We need accountability and justice. Hindi na ito katarungan para lamang sa 4 na military na pinatay. Katarungan na din ito para sa 14 na mamamayan na napaslang sa bombing noong August 24.

Kaya hinihingi ko po sa pamunuan ng PNP: relieve the entire Jolo police force. Para matanggal ang agam-agam na May infiltration ng terrorista, para mapanatag ang loob ng mga Pilipino, para bigyan ng free hand ang imbestigasyon, the entire Jolo police force must be relieved.

Salamat po.

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