MANILA, Philippines – Police officers who set up the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon where 13 men were killed made several protocol violations, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said Wednesday.
In a press conference, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas said there were 40 law enforcers – 15 policemen and 25 soldiers - stationed at the checkpoint proper in Barangay Lumutan when the 13 men on board two vehicles arrived and supposedly fired the initial shots.
Roxas said of the 15 policemen, only the chief of Atimonan Police wore a uniform. The rest, including lone injured policeman Supt. Hansel Marantan, wore civilian clothes. The 25 soldiers, on the other hand, were in fatigues.
A marked police vehicle, another requirement in a checkpoint, was also not found at the main checkpoint area.
Roxas said warning signs were placed 500 meters from both ends of the checkpoint proper.
"Doon sa unang checkpoint na dinaanan, it was manned by four PNP personnel who were in uniform at isang PNP marked vehicle. Iyung pangalawang checkpopint na 'di narating ng convoy was manned by three PNP personnel in uniform, but there was no vehicle," Roxas said.
Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police, said by not wearing proper uniforms, the 14 policemen violated rules and procedures in setting up checkpoints.
"Actually sa situation na iyon, the police operation procedures were not followed. Dapat meron pong police vehicle with visible markings, personnel should be in uniform, hindi nakasibilyan… There is no excuse na hindi sila mag-uniform," Purisima said.
Paraffin test, bullets
The initial result of the PNP fact-finding probe also revealed that eight of the 13 slain men tested positive in a paraffin test.
However, Roxas said he would not speculate whether the eight slain men fired shots during the encounter itself.
"Ang PNP is [doing] fact-finding [only]. Kung ano lang ang ma-establish na facts – sino may lisensya, sino may permit to carry, anong ibig sabihin nitong facts na ito, conclusion, analysis, background, context – will be done by the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation)," Roxas said.
At least 186 bullet hits were found in the first sports utility vehicle, while another 50 were found in the second.
Roxas said the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) has yet to come up with a report telling the origin of the bullets.
"Merong nabanggit tungkol sa mga windows [ng SUV] - pero mas mabuti na antayin natin ang SOCO report dahil mas teknilal nilang masasabi kung nakataas o nakababa ang bintana. Intayin natin ang technical report ng SOCO para malaman kung iyung mekanismo ng bintana ay nakataas o nakababa irrespective kung merong glass doon o wala," he said.
Fourteen firearms – a M14 rifle, an Armalite rifle and 12 short firearms – were recovered from the slain men. One of the pistols had no license and only seven of them had a corresponding permit to carry.
Some P265,000 was also recovered from the slain men, a value way lower than the rumored P100 million allegedly carried by the victims.
Officials, personnel sacked
Purisima has ordered the relief of the Quezon Police provincial director and involved personnel for violating proper procedures.
The involved personnel will be under restrictive custody at Camp Vicente Lim.
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. Marantan, the one who tipped the Quezon Police regarding the suspected private armed group, are allegedly rivals in jueteng operations.
Roxas said all the questions hounding the shootout will be answered by the separate probes being conducted by the PNP and the NBI.
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.