MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Thirteen men died in an encounter between government forces and alleged criminal elements in Atimonan, Quezon province on Sunday afternoon.
Chief Superintendent James Andres Melad, chief of Calabarzon police, said the encounter occurred at a police checkpoint along Maharlika Highway in Barangay Lumutan at around 3:20 p.m.
Melad said the suspects who were on board two Mitsubishi Montero sports utility vehicles opened fire on the policemen and soldiers stationed at the checkpoint, prompting the government forces to fire back.
"Pinara sila [pero] talagang iniiwasan nila iyung checkpoint. Tapos pagdating nung actual checkpoint, ang nangyari lumapit 'yung isang tao namin para i-verify kung sino sila eh pinaputukan kaagad yung isang opisyal natin," Melad said.
Eleven died on the spot, while two others were pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Four of the suspects turned out to be law enforcers.
The fatalities were identified as:
1. Victorino Siman Atienza
2. Gerry Ancero Siman
3. Conrado Decillo
4. Leonardo Catapang Marasigan
5. Victor Garcia Gonzales
6. Supt. Alfredo Perez Consemino, chief of operations of Police Regional Office - Mimaropa
7. Staff Sgt. Armando Aranda Lescano
8. SPO1 Gruet Mantuano
9. PO1 Jeffrey Valdez
10. Tirso Lontoc
11. Maximo Manalastas Pelay
12. Jimbeam Dyico Justiniani
13. Paul Arcedillo Quiohilag
The slain suspects allegedly belonged to the notorious "Siman Group".
Superintendent Hansel Marantan of Calabarzon Regional Intelligence Division, meanwhile, sustained injuries when the suspects fired shots.
Virgilio Mantuano, father of Gruet, has called for an investigation into the shootout. He said Gruet, who worked for the operations divison of PNP – Mimaropa, told him he would accompany Consemino in a police operation.
Melad, meanwhile, said no mission order was recovered from the slain Mimaropa policemen.
In an earlier interview, Col. Valeriano de Leon, Quezon Police provincial director, said the checkpoint was set up as a response to an intelligence report that criminal elements would pass by the area.
"May special purpose [ang checkpoint] because the intelligence community received a very reliable information na mayroong dadaang mga private armed groups, heavily armed groups," de Leon told dzMM.
Police recovered at least eight .45-caliber pistols, M-14 and M-16 rifles from the slain suspects. – reports from Noel Alamar and Edwin Sevidal, dzMM; Sarita Kare, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog