MANILA - Malacanan has tasked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to be the sole agency to determine what actually happened in the Atimonan, Quezon 'shootout' that left 13 people dead last Sunday.
In a text message, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima told ABS-CBN News that the NBI will also determine the liability, if any, of government forces who manned the checkpoint that attempted to stop a convoy of a supposed criminal syndicate, which later turned out to be a group of police officers, soldiers, and civilians.
De Lima clarified that the Philippine National Police (PNP) will continue to investigate the incident but its role will be limited.
"PNP will still conduct its own fact-finding relative to such matters as the source and use of firearms, the involvement of certain police officers... but as to exactly what happened and culpability, if any, of those manning the checkpoint, it will solely be the NBI," De Lima said.
A ranking police official, two other policemen, 3 soldiers and an environmental group officer were among those killed in the incident.
The local police insists the incident was a 'shootout.' Among the passengers in the convoy was an alleged gambling operator.
Families of those slain earlier asked the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) to conduct its own probe for fear of a whitewash. The NBI is an attached agency of the department.
Malacañang assured there will be no whitewash in the investigation.
"You can be assured that there won't be any whitewash. The President is interested in the details of the case and whatever the results will be, we will look into it and we will make a judgment call. But certainly, we can assure you that there will be no whitewash," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Meantime, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala confirmed that Tirso Lontoc, one of those killed in the incident, is his "fourth degree relative."
"Kasama niya before sa environmental protection group," Lacierda said. -- with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News