MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, on Wednesday urged the army's commanding general to 'temper his emotions' following an encounter between police and the military in Jolo, Sulu which left four soldiers dead.
"While I can easily relate to Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay and understand how he feels about the Army officers slain in Sulu, emotions running high at this point is the last thing they need," Lacson said.
So far, the military and the police have presented drastically different accounts of what transpired, particularly the origin of the hostilities that eventually led to the killing of the soldiers.
While police reports on the incident state that the soldiers tried to flee when apprehended, military reports counter that the soldiers identified themselves, were complying with the police and were in fact parked in front of a police vehicle when the shooting transpired.
Gapay, in a statement posted to the Philippine Army's Facebook page, said he was "enraged and demands that a full-blown investigation [be] conducted on the death of four soldiers [at] the hands of PNP forces."
In a press conference following the ceremony for the slain troops, Gapay called police reports on the incident "fabricated, full of inconsistencies, and misleading," CNN Philippines reported.
"It's obvious that the report was whitewashed. We are furious over what happened to the army personnel — they were murdered by those policemen," Gapay added in Filipino.
Lacson: 'Misencounter' can be used against security forces
Lacson further warned that "enemies of the state, through their legal fronts" might take advantage of the situation by "fanning the flames of animosity between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police."
However, the incident and the resulting back and forth over its details has occurred exclusively between the police and the military.
The former PNP chief also claimed that "[enemies of the state] have demonstrated their capabilities in sowing disinformation about the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the National ID system, among other measures designed to improve the lives of the people."
On June 8, Lacson speculated that reports of netizens’ Facebook accounts being cloned may be part of a disinformation campaign against the controversial anti-terror bill.
“Its concerning in the sense that this can be included in scare tactics. For all we know, it is dissenters [of the bill] who are spreading this to scare people by dishing out disinformation,” he said.
He did not offer any evidence to back up this claim.
A pattern suggests that it is actually critics of the government who are vocal online who are being targeted by these clone accounts.
Activists in Cebu who were arrested during a peaceful protest against the anti-terrorism bill were the first to report such instances of cloning. Reports from non-student activists regarding their accounts being duplicated followed soon after.
Sen. Bato dela Rosa, also a former PNP chief, has urged both the national police and the army to work toward deescalation.
Gapay, however, has maintained that his anger is not directed towards the national police as a whole.
"We're not generalizing the PNP here. We're talking about Jolo PNP here. Heads will roll here and those [found] liable should be punished to the max," Gapay said.
Both the national police and the army have agreed to let the National Bureau of Investigation lead the probe into the incident. — with reports from Franco Luna
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