Army spokesperson Col. Ramon Zagala told Inquirer the slain soldiers “were in the middle of a mission to capture the suspected bombers” when Jolo policemen shot them dead.
The deceased were identified as Maj. Marvin Indamog, Capt. Iriwin Managuelod, Sgt. Eric Velasco and Cpl. Abdal Asula.
Philippine National Police (PNP) admitted Tuesday that the Jolo shooting incident is a misencounter, spokesman Police Brigadier General Bernard Banac said. However, Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay rejected the explanation, saying it was not a ‘shootout but a rubout.’
Gapay and other AFP officials denied the cops’ claim that the soldiers had pointed their weapons at the policemen. They added the victims were unarmed and kept their guns hidden under the car seats to avoid being seen.
Indammog, who was commanding officer of the 9th Intelligence Service Unit in Sulu, led the team in locating the two suspected bombers.
“We have identified the location [of the two suspects]. We were just pinpointing the exact area when this happened,” he said.
“Imagine the lost opportunity there. Two bombers who were supposed to be captured and neutralized were able to slip, and you know the potential of these two bombers of sowing terror and executing terrorist acts again. It’s such a waste,” Gapay said.
According to Maj. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, the deaths of Indammog, 39, and his team were “a big loss not just for us, but to Sulu in general.”
Vinluan added Indammog’s team played a major role in gathering intelligence reports that led to successful operations against terrorists such as the rescue of British-Filipino couple Allan and Wilma Hyrons. They also helped in the neutralization of several key Abu personalities like Abu Talha and their links to the Islamic State’s financing, the rescue of three Indonesian kidnap victims, and the neutralization of two Egyptian suicide bombers.