The Philippine National Police (PNP) has released nine cops tagged in the killing of four soldiers in Jolo, Sulu in June last year, despite a Justice Department request that they hold them in custody, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday.
“The nine police officers were released from custody despite requests of the DOJ with the PNP to hold them a while until the arrest warrants were issued,” Guevarra said in a text message sent to reporters.
A day earlier, PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas announced that the nine policemen have been dismissed from service and were released from the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame “sometime last week.”
Under the law, suspects may be detained without charge for up to 36 hours.
Sinas said the PNP had been coordinating with the DOJ to avoid being accused of arbitrary detention.
Guevarra said the DOJ is anticipating the issuance of the arrest warrants soon but that the lockdown in Sulu got in the way.
“The DOJ prosecutors filed the criminal information against the 9 police officers last Jan. 4. The court was supposed to issue the warrants of arrest thereafter, but apparently failed to do so because of the current lockdown in Sulu,” he said.
Guevarra on Tuesday directed the prosecutors handling the case to file a motion before the Jolo, Sulu regional trial court to immediately issue a hold departure order while waiting for the RTC to order the arrest of the accused policemen.
Prosecution attorney Honey Delgado, spokesperson of the Office of the Prosecutor General, said the criminal information against the policemen were filed on January 4.
But Delgado said the delay in the issuance of the arrest warrants was due to the lockdown in Sulu province, which was imposed to prevent the entry of a new, more transmissible variant of the COVID-19 virus from Sabah, Malaysia.
Charged in the killings were Police S/MS. Abdelzhimar Pajiri, M/S. Hanie Badirri, S/Sgts. Iskandar Susulan, Ernisar Sappal and Almudzrin Hadjaruddin, Cpl. Sulki Andaki and Patrolmen Muhammad Nur Pasani, Rajiv Putalan and Alkajal Mandangan.
They were discharged from the service on Jan. 1 and were subsequently released from detention as there have been no warrant of arrest for them.
Guevarra said they were released from PNP custody despite requests of the DOJ to hold them a while until the arrest warrants were issued.
The DOJ chief earlier expressed worries that the accused might be able to flee if arrest warrants are not issued immediately against them.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation accusing the policemen of murder and planting of evidence in connection with the killing of Army Maj. Indammog, Capt. Irwin Managuelod, Sgt. Eric Velasco and Cpl. Abdul Asula.
The military leadership has accused the police officers of executing the victims contrary to their claim of a misencounter.