MANILA, Philippines - The 13 men killed in the Quezon encounter were allegedly transporting a huge amount of cash.
One of the first to arrive at the crime scene was radio dzMM correspondent Johnny Glorioso.
photo of a red suitcase
Glorioso was able to snap a photo of a red suitcase at the back of one of the two vehicles of the fatalities.
He said the suitcase and a number of bags from the vehicles have not turned up in the list of evidence presented by the police.
Glorioso has a picture as proof, which he took before the arrival of police crime scene investigators.
"Wala akong nakitang maletang pula dun sa listahan na isinumite nila pero nakita ko yung maleta doon sa kalsada noong ako'y dumating," he said.
Police declared that they recovered several weapons, personal items, and around P265,000 from the scene.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the allegations of missing items and money will be part of the investigation.
Senior Supt. Val de Leon, head of the Quezon police who has since been relieved from his post, denied that provincial police took and did not declare items, including the mysterious suitcase, from the crime scene.
De Leon said it was personnel of the crime lab that handled the evidence, and his office did not take part in the investigation.
"Not even me as the provincial director has touched the the crime scene or the personal belongings," he said.
De Leon does not object to the investigation being removed from the hands of the Philippine National Police.
"To me, it will help, because minsan ang labanan yung public perception, di ba? Kung pulis ang magbibigay ng conclusion baka sabihin wi-nitewash," he said.
More than 200 bullet holes
Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the lead agency now looking into the alleged shootout between police and soldiers against members of an alleged gun-for-hire group, returned to the scene Wednesday.
They searched for more pieces of evidence and went house to house looking for witnesses.
"Isang na-gather ko dito, before dumating ang dalawang sasakyan. Nagsagawa ng dalawang checkpoint," said Rizaldy Jaymalin, executive director of the NBI in Lucena district.
"Isa dito, at isa dun sa may Iglesia. Paglampas ng dalawang SUV, hinarang na sa gitna ng kalsada ang truck ng sundalo para di na makalabas ang SUV," he added.
One wall in the area was also riddled with bullets, and the NBI intends to find out why.
"Makikita mo yung mga halaman merong anu-ano. So kung iyun, posibleng may pumusisyon dyan. We are looking for empty shells," Jaymalin said.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the fatalities' 2 vehicles had more than 200 bullet holes.
The NBI is trying to determine which were fired from the inside or outside.
The PNP, which has taken a secondary role in the investigation, is also gathering facts about the incident.
Its initial findings show there were operational lapses committed by police and soldiers who manned the checkpoint in Atimonan.
"Sa halos na 40 tao na nandoon, iisa lang iyung chief of police ang naka-uniporme," Roxas said
"Dapat laging naka-uniporme ang police sa checkpoint. There is no excuse na hindi dapat sila mag-uniporme because checkpoints [are] the function of uniformed personnel," said PNP Director General Alan Purisima.
Aside from De Leon, 14 other police officers involved in the shootout have been removed from their posts.
They include Superintendent Grant Gollod, chief of the Atimonan PNP, and Superintendent Hansel Marantan, who led the operation.
"Walang whitewash dito. Walang sisinuhin dito. Kung ano ang katotohanan yan ang lalabas dito," Roxas said.
Amid allegations of a "rubout" by relatives of the fatalities, House minority leader and Quezon 3rd District Representative Danilo Suarez plans to call for a congressional probe into the incident. - reports from Jorge Cariño and Gus Abelgas, ABS-CBN News; ANC