Justice Secretary Leila de Lima talks to policemen during the reenactment of the shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon on Thursday. – Photo by RENE H DILAN
MANILA: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said that she believes that the January 6 incident in Atimonan, Quezon was not a shootout.
“It’s anything but a shootout ... Not a shootout, definitely,” de Lima, who earlier heard the narration of two persons who witnesses the incident, said.
The Justice chief, along with Director Nonatus Rojas of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), visited the crime scene in Atimonan on Thursday, to gather evidence and witness a reenactment of the bloody incident that led to the death of 13 men.
De Lima said that several people who witnessed the incident recounted what really transpired between the law enforcers and a group reportedly headed by Vic Siman, an alleged jueteng operator in Southern Luzon.
According to the witnesses, those who manned the checkpoint were uniformed men and some individuals in civilian attire.
Those in uniform carried long firearms, while those in civilian clothes held shorter firearms. One of the men in a civilian attire was the one who ordered the attack shouting “fire, fire!” when nobody alighted from the vehicles.
The first volley of gunfire allegedly lasted more or less 20 seconds, after which, the man repeated his order to fire.
After the second round of gunfire, those manning the checkpoint left the scene.
The Justice chief said that the police set up the barricades only when the group of vehicles were approaching.
De Lima said that the witnesses seem credible and that their testimonies led her to conclude that the incident could not possibly be a shootout.
“Very, very vital and explosive, they saw the entire incident,” de Lima said of the statement of the witnesses who are now under the custody of the NBI-Witness Protection Program.
“At first, they [witnesses] didn’t want to speak up, until they were assured of their and their family’s security. They eventually agreed to tell what they witnessed. And based on their account, their credibility was enhanced,” the Justice secretary said.
“They are neutral and civilian. They do not have any motive to invent what they said they had seen.”
Obstruction of justice
Meanwhile, officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that Supt. Hansel Marantan’s refusal to cooperate in the police fact-finding investigation on the Atimonan shooting incident constitute an obstruction of justice and outright insubordination.
Marantan headed the composite team of police and soldiers that figured in the alleged shootout with a group of armed men at the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon.
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesman, said that Marantan’s noncooperation is also tantamount to withholding the truth.
“The PNP is duty-bound to provide the public with a reasonable explanation of the actions of all police personnel involved in the incident, Marantan included,” Cerbo said in a statement.
A man who used to work for Siman said that the shootout that happened was because of a turf war between his former boss and Marantan’s sister, Selena Marantan-Dinglasan.
Siman and Marantan’s sister allegedly had numerous clashes in the past because the former was trying to dominate the turf of the latter, who purportedly controls the jueteng operations in different towns of Laguna province.
Cerbo said that the police are now leaving to the Department of Justice and Investigation bureau the task of completing the criminal aspect of the investigation for prosecution.
“Rest assured the PNP will cooperate fully with the DOJ-NBI in this case,” he added. – The Manila Times
(With a report from Anthony Vargas)