MANILA, Philippines – Millions of pesos worth of gold and diamonds were allegedly taken from the site of the clash between suspected criminal elements and law enforcers in Atimonan, Quezon, sources told ABS-CBN News and radio dzMM.
Radio dzMM correspondent Johnny Glorioso, one of the first reporters to arrive at the site of encounter on Sunday, said a source approached him and claimed that 12 kilograms of gold and 24 pieces of diamonds were previously in the possession of the 13 victims.
The gold and diamonds have an estimated value of P100 million.
The source said Victorino Siman Jr., one of the 13 slain men, was supposed to deliver the gold and diamonds from its dealer in Panganiban, Camarines Norte to its buyer in Calamba, Laguna.
Another fatality, police Superintendent Alfredo Consemino, allegedly served as Siman's security escort during the delivery of the valuable items. Two of Consemino's men, SPO1 Gruet Mantuano and PO1 Jeffrey Valdez, were also killed.
Consemino and Siman were friends and business partners. Siman's family admitted that he was an influential Small Town Lottery (STL) operator in Calamba, Laguna and Batangas.
A friend of Consemino, Pastor Roger de Castro, also claimed that the slain policeman had invited him to go to Camarines Norte to buy gold. However, he turned down the invitation and was thankful for doing so.
He also said that Consemino was not a part of a gun-for-hire group.
Missing bag, third vehicle
Being one of the first reporters at the scene, 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 14 firearms, 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 of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Quezon Police chief Senior Supt. Val de Leon denied that provincial police took the items, including the suitcase, from the crime scene.
De Leon said it was the personnel of the crime laboratory that handled the evidence, and his office did not take part in the investigation.
Investigators are also verifying reports that a third vehicle in the convoy of the slain men was able to escape while the strafing was ongoing.
The third vehicle allegedly contained other items and firearms and carried at least three more men from the group.
The 13 men, 4 of whom were law enforcers, were killed by joint military and police forces in a checkpoint Sunday afternoon.
The policemen stationed at the checkpoint claimed that the men, on board two sports utility vehicles, fired the first shots. They said the checkpoint was set up after they received reports that a private armed group would pass by the area.
The relatives of the slain men, however, believe the incident was a case of a rubout.
Only Supt. Hansel Marantan, allegedly a rival of Siman in gambling operations, got injured. He sustained gunshot wounds to the hands and feet.
Fifteen policemen, including De Leon, have since been relieved from their post.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said of the 15 policemen, only the chief of Atimonan Police wore a uniform. 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.
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. – with reports from Sarita Kare, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog; Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News; dzMM