President Rodrigo Duterte regards the death of four soldiers gunned down by policemen in Jolo, Sulu, as a personal loss, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the remark after observers noticed that Duterte appeared sick and in low spirits during his speech at the Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City on Friday, where he appealed to the soldiers to stay calm and not to take revenge.
READ: 4 Army soldiers killed by police in Jolo
The soldiers were said to be tailing suicide bombers affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf group on June 29 when they were shot dead by the policemen.
Duterte’s visit in Zamboanga City was the first time he met with government troops since the Philippines was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He really took what happened in Jolo as a personal loss, which is why he promised that justice would be served,” Roque said in a virtual presser.
But he allayed the concerns over Duterte’s health, saying he was not suffering from any condition but was simply “emotional” over the death of the four soldiers.
He compared Duterte’s feelings to those of a father grieving over the loss of a son, noting that his voice was cracking while delivering his speech.
“He is really low-spirited because he is sad. He’s like a father who lost a son,” Roque said.
He appealed to his audience to wait for the results of the National Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the alleged “misencounter” between the members of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines that resulted in the killing of the soldiers.
“Let us wait for the results of the investigation of the NBI because the President himself is the most affected by their deaths aside from their families,” Roque said.
He said Duterte was set to address the public in Davao City today, Tuesday, to give an update on the COVID-19 situation.
In his speech on Friday, Duterte acknowledged that the incident had created animosity between the AFP and the PNP, “which is not good because, in the end, it would be the people [who] will bear the brunt of all these things.”
READ: ‘Duterte not sick, just needs to rejuvenate’
He told the military not to hold a grudge against the police as “there is a more important task to do and that is to protect the people of the Philippines.”
Killing policemen would not bring their four comrades back to life, he said, asking the military and the police to wait for the results of the investigation being conducted by the NBI, which would be made public “so that everybody will understand the situation.”
READ: Feeling sick, Duterte skips Palo peace summit