THAT was what President Rodrigo Duterte saw as urgent when he went to Zamboanga City Friday, July 3, 2020, to speak with his officers about the tension between the military and the police.
No less than the President had to go there to try to pacify the groups following the recent killing of four soldiers by policemen in Jolo, Sulu.
He said in his address, “Kasi mahal ko ang sundalo ko, mahal ko rin ang pulis ko.”
The President saw the need to address the issue immediately, not only because of the tension between the military and the police but also to show the public that those tasked with keeping the peace can do the work.
He had to give an assurance because on the same day he went to Zamboanga, he signed into law the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020; and the killing of the soldiers by policemen does not inspire confidence in their peace-keeping abilities.
The President had to make sure the tensions between the military and the police do not escalate. “Pumunta ako dito, upang humingi ako ng tulong ninyo, I’m pleading, nakikisuap ako, nihangyo ko ninyo pagpakalma, to keep the waters calm,” he told them. He added that whoever is liable for the deaths of the four soldiers will be prosecuted either through a court-martial or a regular court.
To those who are getting restless and impatient to see justice for their fallen colleagues, Duterte said, “You want to take revenge. For what? Gusto n’yong pumatay ng pulis. For what?”
Philippine Army Commander Gilbert Gapay was earlier reported to have been enraged over the killing of the four soldiers for unknown reasons. Reports said the four soldiers were on a mission to get the location of terrorists in Jolo, where the Abu Sayyaf Group is known to operate. At about 2 p.m. of June 29, police personnel from the Jolo Municipal Station flagged the vehicle of the soldiers at a checkpoint then fired on them. Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Archie Gamboa said the nine policemen involved in the incident are under the Sulu Police Provincial Office director’s custody pending the start of the investigation.
The Jolo incident has nothing to do with the new law against terrorism but everything to do with public confidence in those tasked to enforce laws and keep the peace in the country.
Senators and House members who laud the signing of the law describe the measure as historic and much needed, and also as timely in order for the country to maintain peace and order when it goes into a post-pandemic scenario, where government and businesses start to recover from losses brought by the economic downturn.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon may be right when he said we should not link the Jolo incident to the anti-terrorism law. He said there was no connection between the two.
But it would bring confidence to the capabilities of the military and the police if the tension between them were resolved and the incident investigated.