MANILA -- There was foul play in the shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon that killed 13 people on Sunday, the daughter of an Air Force officer, one of the victims in the encounter, said Tuesday.
Eloisa Lescano, daughter of Staff Sgt. Armando Lescano, insisted her father and the other men suspected to be members of a gun-for-hire group, were not the first to fire at the police.
"Based po sa narinig namin about sa crime scene, sabi daw po kasi nanlaban daw po sila Papa. Pero sa tingin po namin may foul play po," she told ANC.
"Kasi based po dun sa sinasabi, 'yung sakayan po nila is kitang-kita po na nakasara po 'yung mga pintukan. Tapos parang pabunot pa lang daw po 'yung Papa ko ng baril para madefend 'yung sarili niya. Eh 'di na po nakapanlaban eh. Mali po talaga, mali," Eloisa added.
Police earlier said the shooting occured after the 13 men on board two sports utility vehicles refused to be inspected and opened fire at a joint police and military checkpoint along Maharlika Highway in Barangay Lumutan.
They said they received a tip the alleged gun-for-hire group led by Vic Siman, who was also killed in the shootout, would pass through Atimonan after a meeting in Camarines Norte. The Quezon Police said this intelligence report prompted them and the military to set up a check point.
Armando Lescano just an escort
Eloisa said her family was shocked to hear that her father was suspected to be a member of the alleged gun-for-hire group.
"Masakit po. Masakit po sa side namin kasi kilala po namin 'yung father ko as mabait pong tao. Kaya nasasaktan po kami sa inaano sa kanya na member siya ng gun-for-hire," Eloisa said.
She added her father was merely acting as a security escort on the day of the incident. But Armando did not say who he was escorting on that day, Eloisa said.
"Hindi naman po (niya) naikwento. Never naming nameet itong sinasabing pinag-escortan ni Papa."
"Si Papa po kasi, sanay po kami na kinukuha siyang escort ng mga mayor or attorney. Nagse-security po siya pag wala siyang duty," she said.
She said the last time she was able to talk to her father was when he called at 2:30 p.m., saying he was already on his way home.
"Actually wala po talaga kaming kaalam-alam. Last na nag-usap kami is sabi po niya about 2:30 pauwi na daw po siya. After po nun namatay na po, wala na po kaming balita," Eloisa said.
It was only after hearing news in television that the family found out that Armando had been killed in a shooting incident.
Eloisa said all they are seeking now is justice for the death of Armando. She said the family will also not stop until his father's name is cleared of all the allegations against him.
"Gusto lang po talaga naming malinis 'yung pangalan niya kasi ang pangit naman po ng laman ng balita na 'yung father ko po -- wala naman po talaga siyang ginawa, napasama lang po dun dahil nag-security -- aakusahan nila. Parang namatay na nga po, ganyan pa po 'yung ibinabato. Ang pangit po kasi," she said.
"Talagang papatunayan namin na nag-security lang siya nung araw na 'yun at nadamay lang siya."
Jueteng angle probed
In an interview with radio dzMM Tuesday morning, retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said he believes the shooting incident may have been a turf war over the illegal numbers game jueteng or over jueteng kickbacks.
Cruz admitted to hearing the name of Supt. Hansel Marantan, who was wounded during the alleged encounter, as among those involved in jueteng operations.
The prelate also described Siman as being either third or fourth in the hierarchy of jueteng personalities in the region.
He also implicated another fatality, Tirso Lontoc, as being involved in jueteng operations.
Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police, said a fact-finding team, led by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Deputy Chief Senior Supt. Federico Castro, has been sent to Quezon to shed light into the shooting incident which also killed 3 Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) policemen.
The legitimacy of the operation raised further doubts after another report revealed that some P100 million allegedly carried by the slain men went missing.
He said the fact-finding team will determine all the circumstances surrounding the police operation, which the Quezon Provincial Police claimed to be legitimate. He also quelled fears of a whitewash in the probe.
He admitted that the crime scene may have been manipulated if the incident was indeed a rubout, but said "no crime is perfect."
Meanwhile, Purisima said Armando has no criminal record. -- With a report from Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com