Authorities said they were verifying the links and affiliations of suspected vehicle thieves who were killed in a shootout and those apprehended by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army in Surigao del Sur last week.
We are still on the process of investigation with the PNP, Brig. Gen. Maurito L. Licudine, commander of the Army's 402nd Infantry Brigade, said in a press conference on Tuesday.
Licudine said they have also contacted other intelligence sources to verify the identities of the suspects.
I do not want to preempt the ongoing investigations. Let us wait for the results, he said.
Four suspected vehicle thieves were killed in a shootout with policemen and Army troopers in Barangay Unidos, Tago, Surigao del Sur at dawn last Friday.
Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office (SDSPPO) director, Col. James Goforth, identified two of the killed suspects as Nuluddin Abbilani Hadjula, 60, a resident of Sionogan, Indanan, Sulu and Alkamar Uding Nuluddin, 24, a resident of Takut takut, Jolo, Sulu.
The other two have yet to be identified.
Last Sunday, five more suspected car thieves were arrested by joint forces of the PNP and Army in a checkpoint operation conducted in Barangay Ban as, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
The authorities conducted the joint checkpoint based on "verified information" that some of the suspects who fled after February 7 shootout were on board a Toyota Revo with plate number XDC 544.
The arrested suspects were identified as Oscar Culawit Tan, resident of Zamboanga City; Kimar Lipae Kiram; Indik Sahidjan Abram of Barangay Buno, Talipao, Sulu; Al Fhaizal Lipae Taji of Purok Kalintad, Cotabato City; and Suriana Isha Imlani of Tomaga, Zamboanga City.
The incidents have resulted in speculations on the possible entry of some terror groups in the region.
In Tuesday's press conference, Police Regional Office 13 (Caraga) director, Brig. Gen. Joselito T. Esquivel Jr., echoed Licudine's remarks on the importance of verifying the suspects' backgrounds.
We are coordinating with other intelligence units and police regional offices so that their criminal history will be revealed in due time, Esquivel said, adding they were also expecting complainants to surface to help identify the suspects.
He allayed the concerns of some residents in the area and assured them that the police and the Army were "working together to prevent the entry of terror groups and criminals" in the region.
Esquivel said Caraga has 1,300 active checkpoints established to deter the entry of terror groups and criminals.
They can pass through the first, second but not the 15th checkpoint. That is my promise to the people of Caraga that everybody will be safe. But let us bear the number of checkpoints established purposely so that these criminal elements will not enter into our region unchecked, he added.
Source: Philippines News Agency