MANILA, Philippines – The re-enactment of the alleged January 6 shootout in Atimonan, Quezon held Thursday is inaccurate, according to the leader of 20 soldiers involved in the incident.
Lt. Col. Monico Abang, commander of the 1st Special Forces Battalion based in Candelaria, Quezon, said he watched on TV the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) re-enactment of the alleged shootout that killed 13 people.
Quezon shooting incident
“Mayroon ako napanood sa TV na hindi naaayon sa totoong nangyari,” he told reporters.
Asked what was wrong with the re-enactment, he said: “Sasagutin namin sa takdang oras at panahon.”
Crisanto Gueda, lawyer of the soldiers, said they have a witness who will corroborate their claims.
Abang’s statement runs counter to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s claim that there was no shootout between policemen and soldiers against alleged criminal elements at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon.
De Lima said she based her conclusion on the testimonies of 2 eyewitnesses and on the re-enactment.
The January 6 shooting is currently being investigated by the NBI amid reports that the incident was allegedly an offshoot of a turf war over illegal gambling.
Supt. Hansel Marantan, leader of the policemen involved in the shooting, and Vic Siman, one of the 13 fatalities, are alleged rivals in jueteng operations.
Marantan, who was injured in the shooting, has denied that he is involved in jueteng. He was recently sacked as deputy chief of the Calabarzon regional intelligence division.
A total of 40 soldiers and policemen, led by Abang and Marantan, were manning the checkpoint when the shootout occurred.
Warning shots or kill shots?
Yesterday’s re-enactment allegedly showed that law enforcers fired first on the 2 vehicles carrying Siman and his group after they refused to alight from their vehicles.
De Lima said one passenger was able to shoot back once, prompting another volley of shots from the law enforcers. At least one of the victims, Tirso Lontok, was allegedly shot in cold blood despite an attempt to surrender.
Abang went to the NBI on Friday to surrender 15 firearms used by his men in the shooting. He said his men were unable to surrender the guns immediately since they needed them to fight communist insurgents.
Abang told reporters his men fired warning shots but said the shots were almost simultaneous with shots fired by the men inside the cars.
Asked why they fired warning shots, he said: “That is necessary. Nagpuputukan na yun e…Halos kasabay yung putok.”
He also said there was no order to fire a warning shot. “Wala po. Spontaneous po kasi yung nangyari.”
Abang said he was near his vehicle when the shooting started. He said that while he did not see Marantan fall, he saw one of Marantan’s men dragging the deputy police chief after he was shot.
“Di ko nakitang tumumba pero nakita kong hinihila si Supt Marantan na sugatan,” he said.
The military officer confirmed that a military truck had blocked the road after the SUVs tried to go past the last checkpoint.
“Nung nagtangka na silang lumapas sa last checkpoint, that’s the point na hinarang yung SUV,” he said.
He also denied that checkpoint signages were removed before the shootout started.