Atimonan witness: Police were attacked first
MANILA, Philippines – A witness in the alleged shootout in Atimonan, Quezon, told the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Tuesday, January 22, that the police were fired at first – and not the other way around – by a group of suspected criminals on January 6.
Rolando Boncayo Vico Jr, a caretaker at a prawn hatchery in Barangay Lumutan in Atimonan, told NBI investigators that he was 20-25 meters away from the checkpoint when he saw gunfire from a black Montero sports utility vehicle at past 1 pm of January 6.
The men in the vehicle allegedly fired 3 shots at 3 policemen in civiilan attire after the latter ordered them to stop at a checkpoint.
"They were being asked to alight. They did not. They instead fired shots and one of the policemen was killed," he said in Filipino.
The police and the soldiers fired at the group after, he added. Thirteen men were killed in the incident, which relatives of the victims said was a rubout.
Those who were killed included Supt. Alfredo Consemino, Paul Arcedillo Quiohilag, Leonardo Catapang Marasigan,Conrado Decillo, Victorino Siman Atienza Jr, Gerry Ancero Siman, Gruet Mantuano, PO1 Jeffrey Valdez,Tirso Lontoc Jr, Victor Gonzales, Maximo Manalastas Pelayo, Staff Sergeant Armando Aranda Lescano and Jimbeam Justiniani.
Vico's testimony contradicts the statements of witnesses presented by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the NBI on January 17, when the DOJ held a re-enactment of the incident.
The 3 witnesses said that the checkpoint sign was removed and that an army truck was used to block the two Montero vehicles.
Vico disputed this, saying he saw the checkpoint signage when the incident happened.
The DOJ's witnesses also said the police allegedly continued to shoot even after one of the victims – Tirso Lontok – went out of the two SUVs and held his hands up in a sign of surrender.
Vico said though that the police only fought back.
He said however he did not look again after the first round of shots, running to his family instead.
Why bring them to hospital?
Crisanto Buela, lawyer of the soldiers involved in the incident, said Vico's testimony only proves there was no rubout.
"If there's a rubout, why would they bring two of the victims to the hospital for treatment?' he said.
The military has cleared the 25 members of Special Forces who were involved in the incident, saying they only retaliated after they were fired upon by the victims.
The Philippine National Police said in its fact-finding report, however, that the injuries were "excessive" and fatal as 11 of the 13 killed were shot in the head.
The PNP has sacked Senior Supt Valeriano de Leon, the police chief of Quezon, and has relieved the leader of the team, Supt. Hansel Marantan, who was wounded in the incident.
At least 23 police officials were involved in the alleged shootout – 8 in uniform, and 15 intel operatives in civilian. All are facing investigation.
The NBI has yet to complete its probe. It has secured one of the two SUVs recovered in the scene of the crime and is waiting for the other Montero vehilcle for examination.
"We need to conduct technical examination," NBI chief Nonnatus Rojas said, adding that the other Montero SUV will be turned over to them in the evening of January 22. - Rappler.com