MANILA – Sen. Ronald dela Rosa on Tuesday said he would mediate between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) after Sulu police shot to death 4 soldiers who were going after Abu Sayyaf bomb makers.
Dela Rosa, AFP chief Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. and PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa were all graduates of the Philippine Military Academy's (PMA) Sinagtala Class of 1986.
"For now both sides have their own version of the story. I will talk to them being my mistah," Dela Rosa told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
"I sympathize with them but I am holding my reaction until a thorough investigation has been completed," he said.
Dela Rosa said that it is important for the heads of both the PNP and the AFP to "defuse tensions" as "affected comrades" of the slain soldiers express outrage and dismay on social media.
"Ground commanders of both AFP and PNP must diffuse tensions and prevent it from escalating while investigation is ongoing," the former police chief-turned-lawmaker said.
"Impartial investigation has to be done and justice must be served. Proper and constant coordination must be established on the ground at all levels at all times," he said.
Military officials earlier called on the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the crime and verify different versions of what happened in the incident.
According to the AFP, the soldiers were on an "official function" linked to terrorism, said Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the military's Western Mindanao Command.
But the PNP claimed the soldiers, who were aboard a sports utility vehicle and were not wearing their uniforms, sped past a checkpoint at a residential area in Jolo town.
Police alleged that the clash began after the soldiers pointed their guns at apprehending officers.
Sulu is known as one of the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf Group, a local terrorist organization which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).