THE prevailing lockdown in the province of Sulu may have caused the delay in the issuance of arrest warrants against the nine dismissed policemen who were charged over the killing of four Army intelligence officers.
Office of the Prosecutor General spokesperson Honey Delgado on Tuesday, January 12, 2021, said the courts in Jolo might not be operating at full capacity because of the lockdown.
"If Sulu is still on lockdown, the courts might not be operating in its full capacity -- may or may not slow down the process," she said in a message to reporters.
The province of Sulu is on lockdown from January 4 until January 17, 2021 to block a new variant of Sars-CoV-2 from nearby Sabah in Malaysia.
Delgado was asked for update on the case against the nine policemen after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) issued an appeal for the issuance of the arrest warrants.
The nine policemen were dismissed and, in the absence of a warrant of arrest, released from Philippine National Police (PNP) custody.
Multiple murder charges were filed against the policemen before the Jolo Regional Trial Court online on January 4, 2021.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in a separate message to reporters, said the Department of Justice (DOJ) had requested the PNP to keep the accused in custody until the court issues an arrest warrant.
"In the meantime, the nine police officers were released from custody despite requests of the DOJ with the PNP to hold them awhile until the arrest warrants were issued," he said in a message to reporters.
"We hope that the nine accused will voluntarily turn themselves in when such warrants are eventually released by the court. Otherwise, law enforcement agents will look for them and take them into custody," he added.
Guevarra also said he ordered the prosecutors to apply for a hold departure order against the nine policemen to prevent them from leaving the country while the trial is ongoing.
PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana said he was not aware of the DOJ’s request and maintained that the PNP followed the process in the release of the policemen.
Those dismissed and released were Abdelzhimar H. Padjiri, Hanie U. Baddiri, Iskandar I. Susulan, Ernisar P. Sappal, Sulki M. Andaki Mohammad Nur E. Pasani, Almudzrin M. Hadjaruddin, Alkajal J. Mandangan and Rajiv G. Putalan.
Hadjaruddin, Mandangan and Putalan are former members of the Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit (PDEU) of Sulu while the rest are former members of the Jolo Municipal Police Station.
Philippine Army personnel Major Marvin Indammog, Captain Irwin Managuelod, Sergeant Jaime Velasco and Corporal Abdal Asula were shot and killed at a checkpoint manned by the police in Jolo on June 29, 2020.
The soldiers were then conducting operations against two suspected bombers in the area.
The police earlier claimed it was a misencounter but the Army said the soldiers were shot without provocation.
The PNP also suspended former Sulu Provincial Drugs Enforcement Unit chief Captain Ariel Corcino, Executive Master Sergeant Alpoedo Ebbah, Staff Sergeant Manzur Sarabi and Patrolman Najir Jimlani over the said incident. (SunStar Philippines)