MANILA, Philippines – A third witness to the January 6 Atimonan, Quezon shooting incident is now cooperating with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), justice secretary Leila de Lima said on Wednesday.
De Lima said the third witness corroborated the testimonies of the first two witnesses who earlier claimed that the 13 men on board two sports utility vehicles were killed in cold blood.
She said the third witness went to the NBI headquarters on Tuesday and is now under the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP).
The witness, who was with the two other witnesses inside a truck when the shooting occurred, earlier went in hiding supposedly out of fear for his life.
De Lima said she still believes in the testimonies of the three witnesses, who said the joint police and military forces strafed the two SUVs, carrying alleged members of the Vic Siman gun-for-hire group, at a police checkpoint in Barangay Lumutan.
"Naninindigan kami sa mga witnesses namin kasi wala kaming makitang rason na imbento lang iyun o mali. Disinterested witnesses sila, nagkataon lang nandon sila. Hindi nila ginusto 'yun," De Lima told radio dzMM.
Meanwhile, the justice secretary said NBI investigators will also have to look into the testimony of Rolando Vico, the witness of the soldiers who claimed that Siman's men fired first.
Vico claimed the checkpoint was established long before the convoy of Siman passed by. This runs contrary to the three witnesses' claim that the policemen and soldiers suddenly pulled out the checkpoint signboards and blocked Maharlika Highway with a military truck upon the arrival of the two SUVs.
"Inaalam namin kung sino ba talaga siya at bakit nasabi niya na nakita rin niya ang insidente," de Lima said.