By Macon Araneta
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said there must be a full investigation “with no-cover ups” into the twin bombing incidents in Jolo, Sulu that left at least 14 people dead and their possible connection to the killing of four soldiers by nine Jolo policemen last June.
She said the “full truth, no matter how ugly or inconvenient” behind the two incidents must be revealed, as she called for the relief of the entire Jolo police force in order to pave the way for a thorough, transparent investigation.
“What is the relation between the August 24 bombings to the killing of soldiers last June 29? Did some policemen put Jolo and our nation at greater risk when they not only interfered with Army intelligence operations but also killed our operatives?” Hontiveros said.
“Did terrorist elements somehow influence, directly or indirectly, the killing of these soldiers?” she added.
Hontiveros said that the investigation on the Jolo blasts should also touch on the deaths of the four army intelligence operatives who were shot and killed by PNP officers.
The said operatives were reportedly tracking the two female suicide bombers who likely committed the twin bombing incidents in Jolo.
This is after the recent claim by Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) Chief Lieutenant Gen. Corleto Vinluan before lawmakers that there may be a possible conspiracy between some police officers in Sulu and terrorists organizations due to family ties.
The Senator also said that the investigation should cover the fact that local police — and even PNP officials — knew about the presence and the identity of the soldiers when they were stopped at a checkpoint and later shot by police officers.
Although the PNP claimed that the soldiers should have first coordinated with local police, Hontiveros, citing information from credible sources, said that the local police units at the “time knew about the identities of the four-man intelligence team as well as their designations and that in turn, this was made known to the PNP leadership.”
Hontiveros said her sources also revealed that the soldiers, who were closing in on the possible location of the suicide bombers at the time, in fact wanted to implement a “house-to-house tokhang” operation with the PNP and local barangay officials to find the house being rented by the bombers.
Hontiveros said that the PNP leadership should be more proactive in getting to the bottom of allegations that some police officers have links with members of terrorist organizations, starting by relieving the entire Jolo police force while investigations are underway.
She added that the PNP should preventively suspend the nine police officers involved in the shooting of the soldiers, saying that it was “highly questionable” why the PNP has not yet done so despite existing protocols.
The PNP previously said that the officers cannot be suspended since they had not yet been found guilty of any administrative charges.
However, Hontiveros said that preventive suspension is an explicit mechanism provided in both the Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998 (RA 8551) and the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) manual.
“Since they are not yet suspended, does that mean that these officers — who are accused of killing four soldiers and are now being investigated for possible ties to terrorists — still perform their functions or access intelligence material? This situation is deeply concerning and it poses risks to our national security,” she said.
“We need more decisiveness from the PNP. We need accountability and justice,” Hontiveros added.