De Lima: I have no reason to doubt Atimonan witnesses

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 20 2013 01:26 PM | Updated as of Jan 21 2013 03:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines -- Insisting on the credibility of civilian witnesses, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is standing by her initial theory that what happened in Atimonan, Quezon last January 6 was not a shootout.

De Lima told reporters that the accounts of the civilian witnesses contradict policemen and soldiers' claims that the incident, which led to the death of 13 persons, was a shootout.

“We have no reason to doubt the credibility of our witnesses and their story. Their account of the incident negates or debunks the operatives’ and soldiers’ claim of shootout,” de Lima’s text message read.

She said there is no reason to doubt these witnesses since they were “disinterested” nor have any links to the case. Moreover, their testimonies were supported by physical and forensic evidence.

De Lima led a re-enactment of the case last Thursday and later told reporters that there was “definitely” not a shootout.

Police Superintendent Hansel Marantan and other security forces, however, said de Lima spoke too soon. Others also criticized the Justice secretary for turning the re-enactment into a circus.

“The operatives’ contrary claim will not affect the direction the [National Bureau of Investigation] is now taking in concluding its report, at least on the aspect of what happened at the incident site on Jan. 6 and the culpability of those involved,” de Lima said.

She said that the security forces’ claim that it was alleged jueteng operator Vic Siman’s group that fired first was only “invoking self-defense as a justifying circumstance.”

She said the NBI will try to submit an initial report to President Benigno Aquino III before he leaves for Switzerland on January 23 for the World Economic Forum.

She said the report will include an animated computer graphics.