MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday will meet with police officers involved in the killing of four soldiers in Jolo, Sulu, Malacañang said as tensions continued to rise between the military and police force over the incident.
Duterte will speak with the 9 policemen in Zamboanga City to understand the incident and to provide assurance that the government will exact justice, his spokesman Harry Roque said.
"Nandoon po siya para malaman kung anong nangyari. Alam niya na mayroong masasama ang loob lalo na doon sa parte ng ating Hukbong Sandatahan na ang feeling sila na naging biktima ng murder sa kamay ng mga kapulisan," Roque said.
(He is there to understand what happened. He knows that some members of the Armed Forces feel bad because they think they were murder victims in the hands of the police.)
"Nandoon po ang Presidente para magbigay ng assurance na makakamit po ang katarungan...Nandoon din po siya para i-lift ang morale ng lahat, ng kasundaluhan at ng kapulisan," he added.
(The President is there to provide assurance that there will be justice...He is there to lift the morale of everyone.)
Duterte is known to have a special fondness for law enforcers -particularly soldiers and police officers.
Roque also confirmed the President's meeting with top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police over the killing of the soldiers.
Calling the incident a "misencounter," police had claimed the soldiers fled a checkpoint in Jolo on Monday and drew their guns at the officers, prompting them to fire.
Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay denied this, calling it “fabricated, parang sine (like in the movies).” He said the incident was a rubout.
The soldiers, all intelligence operatives, were tracking 2 suspected suicide bombers from the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group when their van was flagged down by the police officers at a checkpoint in Jolo.
Gapay had said the soldiers cooperated and identified themselves as military personnel but they were still shot dead.
The PNP has relieved the chief of police of Jolo as the National Bureau of Investigation studies the case.