The four Army intelligence operatives who were killed by policemen in a shooting incident in Jolo, Sulu carried firearms with them, a military official said Thursday.
Major General Corleto Vinluan, commander of 11th Infantry Division, said it was a normal thing to do for soldiers assigned in security high risk areas, such as Jolo and who were doing a legitimate military operation.
“Alam ko mayroon eh. 'Yun 'yung kinuha ng NBI. Kinuha ata ng NBI 'yun eh. Normal 'yan. Normal na, siyempre punta ka sa dangerous area, dapat may armas ka rin," Vinluan said.
Vinluan, however, said the soldiers did not fire at the police officers, knowing for a fact that they were flagged down at a police security checkpoint.
"Ang ginawa daw, pinapunta na lang sa munisipyo, municipal police station. Pumunta naman ang sundalo doon. Kaya lang, siyempre may mga gamit sila. Lumagpas na nga siguro, mga 50 meters sa PNP police station, tapos bumaba yung si Major Indamog para pumunta sana sa police station. Kaya lang, tama-tama, dumating na 'yung police car na nakasunod sa kanila," he said.
"Hindi magpaputok iyan. Alam nila na pulis eh. Naka-uniform. 'Yung iba naka-uniform, 'yung iba naka-sibilyan, tapos nakasakay sa patrol car. 'Pag ganyan na, hindi na magdadala ang sundalo, hindi na makikipaglaban. Eh kung nakipaglaban 'yun, Scout Ranger trained 'yun, mga beterano 'yan. Tapos Special Forces trained 'yung isa. Imposibleng walang mamatay sa pulis," Vinluan added.
Vinluan said the four slain soldiers were on a legitimate anti-terror operation in downtown Jolo, having prior intelligence information of a planned suicide bombing attack by a local terrorist group.
This anti-terror operation has been coordinated by Joint Task Force Sulu with local police, Jolo Municipal government and even with some village officials, he said.
They even suggested which areas should be put on high security lockdown, he added.
“Yung operation namin, legitimate 'yan. Actually, in-open namin 'yan eh. Kinausap ng Task Group Jolo commander, binigyan ko ng instruction na i-disseminate down to barangay captains ng Jolo. Kinausap nila si Mayor, 'yung Chief of Police, tungkol sa suicide bombing na planong i-conduct supposed to be last Friday. Alam lahat iyan," Vinluan said.
"Actually nag-usap, nag-recommend sila kung saang mga apartment, 'yung puwedeng puntahan. So alam iyan, open 'yan. Ang alam ko, may taga-media doon noong nagkaroon ng meeting," he continued.
Meanwhile, Jolo Mayor Kherkar Tan said they have been helping and cooperating with the NBI’s probe on the fatal shooting.
He said they have provided NBI a copy of their CCTV footage that captured the incident from the very beginning.
The municipal hall of Jolo is just meters away from the shooting site.
"May ano, may CCTV kami, sa munisipyo. Basta andoon na sa NBI,” Tan said.
The mayor said the situation in downtown Jolo is already back to normal.