De Lima denies 'preempting' NBI probe on shootout-A A +A
Friday, January 18, 2013
JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima defended herself amid criticism that she gave a premature conclusion on what actually transpired last January 6 in Atimonan, Quezon, where 13 people were killed by authorities manning a checkpoint in the area.
Pressed by reporters on Thursday's re-enactment of the shooting incident, de Lima said it was anything but a shootout after getting the statements of the two witnesses who reportedly saw how policemen and soldiers at the checkpoint killed the victims in cold blood.
The re-enactment was spearheaded by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the lone agency tasked by President Benigno Aquino III to determine whether the incident was a legitimate police operation against supposed lawless elements or a rubout as claimed by the families of the victims.
"I don't think that should be an issue anymore. Did I violate a policy? Did I violate a regulation? And then more importantly isn't NBI under DOJ? It's not just an attached agency so anytime that I feel like monitoring or personally supervising any of these constituent agencies, it is my prerogative," de Lima said.
Malacañang didn't see anything wrong with de Lima's actions.
"I don't think that the secretary is preempting the investigation. The media that are there would also want details owing to their coverage and we trust that Secretary De Lima is also on hand to provide the proper guidance to the investigation," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
On Friday, lawyer Crisanto Buela, who represents the 1st Special Forces Battalion, slammed de Lima for being "overly excited" and releasing a "very biased" statement against the police and the military involved in the incident.
Relaying witnesses' accounts, de Lima had said there was actually no checkpoint designated in that area, and that the checkpoint signage was placed on the road only as the two Mitsubishi Montero vehicles approached.
According to the witness, several armed men approached the two vehicles and ordered them to come out. However, when the order went unheeded, their leader, believed to be Calabarzon police intelligence chief Superintendent Hansel Marantan, shouted "fire."
The operatives then promptly complied and fired at the vehicles. There were also reports that the victims traded shots with authorities.
"Sabi ko nga kung nag-observe kayo closely alam nyo na nangyari. It could be rubout, ambush or massacre. Maghanap pa tayo baka may mas tamang term. Dun namin sasabihin yun sa NBI report (If you are closely monitoring it, you will know what happened. It could be rubout, ambush or massacre. We are still searching for the right term. We will put it in the NBI report)," de Lima said, adding President Aquino wanted to obtain a copy of the report next week.
Also on Friday, an official of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) went to the NBI to deny that the agency approved the killings through case operation (coplan) Armado.
But PAOCC executive director Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta admitted that they gave P100,000 to be used for intelligence gathering purposes of the operation headed by Marantan.
"The coplan was not approved. Lack of documentation to properly assess viability and feasibility of operation such as memo directive from mother unit, timetable and information we needed regarding agents involved and the subjects of investigation," he said.
Meanwhile, Marantan surrendered his 9-millimeter Glock pistol to Isabelo Silvestre Jr., officer-in-charge of the NBI Firearms Investigation Division. He is currently confined at the St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City being the lone injured among the 50 security forces who participated in the incident.
Fifteen firearms consisting of M-14 and M-16 rifles and .45 caliber pistol were also turned over to the NBI by Lieutenant Colonel Monico Abang, commanding officer of the 1st Special Forces Battalion. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)