MANILA, Philippines – Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas on Wednesday said there's something wrong with the way the military and police set up their checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon where 13 people were killed.
The encounter between the slain men and joint military and police forces came under public scrutiny after four of the slain men turned out to be law enforcers.
The legitimacy of the police operation was further questioned after several reports revealed that personalities from both sides were having a turf war over illegal gambling operations.
Victorino Siman, one of the slain men, and Supt. Hansel Marantan, the one who tipped the Quezon Police regarding the suspected private armed group, were allegedly rivals in jueteng operations.
Roxas pointed out that law enforcers manning a checkpoint must be in uniform - a rule Supt. Marantan, an intelligence officer, broke when he allegedly approached one of two sports utility vehicles carrying the slain men.
Upon approaching the SUV, Marantan was allegedly shot by one of the men on board vehicle. His shooting allegedly triggered the rest of the law enforcers to strafe the vehicles.
"Sa supposed to be na road block, bakit yung protocol ng PNP (Philippine National Police) ay mukhang 'di nasunod? Walang visible na signage na nagpapasabi na checkpoint [ito]. Bakit hindi naka-uniform ang higher official na si Marantan?" Roxas told dzMM.
The DILG chief, while acknowledging that the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) has yet to finish its investigations, also noticed that most of the bullets seemed to have come from the firearms of the policemen and soldiers manning the checkpoint.
Nonetheless, Roxas also questioned the nature of the slain members of the group, allegedly led by known gambling operator Siman.
"Hindi tama ang nangyaring ito, dahil unang-una, hindi naman para pupunta lamang sila sa Jollibee na 13 sila, na lahat may armas. Ano ba ang pinupuntahan? Ano ba ang lakad nitong mga ito?" he said.
Roxas said all these questions will be answered by the separate probes being conducted by the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation.
He clarified that the PNP probe will only delve into the administrative matters of the case, while the significant aspects of the clash will be dealt with by NBI investigators.
The designation of the NBI as the primary investigating body was aimed at quelling fears of whitewash, Roxas said.