Quezon 'shootout' witness goes missing

By Niko Baua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 18 2013 07:48 PM | Updated as of Jan 20 2013 12:52 AM

MANILA, Philippines - One of the eyewitnesses in the shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon has gone missing.

The man, whose identity is being withheld, left his residence in Barangay Lomotan.

The eyewitness who lives near the crime scene, initially got interviewed by the National Bureau of Investigation, the police, and the media.

However, after being sought for a formal statement, the man left his home and reportedly sought safety in another town.

Meanwhile, the barangay captain of Lomotan confirmed reports that residents were asked by the police to stay inside their houses and prevented from passing through the road section where the shooting incident happened.

According to reports made by barangay officials, the military and police made a blockade along the road as early as 12 noon, before the alleged shootout happened around 3 p.m.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has said there was no shootout at the checkpoint in Quezon where 13 men died.

Policemen and soldiers manning the checkpoint said the men engaged them in a gun battle when their two vehicles were flagged down.

The DOJ, however, said a re-enactment of the supposed shootout showed government troops opened fire first.

Witness accounts also said one of the victims was ready to surrender but was still shot.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the witnesses, who were initially reluctant to help out of fear for their lives, are now under the Witness Protection Program. - with ANC