President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said there were inconsistencies in the report on the shootout incident in Quezon province over the weekend that left 13 persons, including uniformed men, dead.
"Maraming inconsistency sa natatanggap nating report, kailangan malaman natin ang katotohanan," the President said in an interview with Palace reporters at the sidelines of the oath taking ceremony of the newly appointed officials.
President Aquino cited instances wherein criminal elements will engage law enforces manning the checkpoints and there will be exchange of gunfire and the perpetrators were later apprehended during pursuit operation by the authorities.
"Dito parang sa checkpoint mismo, naubos lahat nung supposed to be dadakpin. Subsequently, may mga other information na dumating na parang inconsistent with the purported story," he noted.
The President said that even Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima had doubts about the supposed encounter.
Authorities maintained that the 13 passengers of two SUVs that were flagged down at a checkpoint in Atimonan town on Sunday opened fire at the police and military personnel.
President Aquino, however, said that based on the pictures he saw of the scene of the alleged shootout published in two broadsheets, "medyo ‘yung idea nung checkpoint and the signages, etcetera, inconsistent between the photographs on the front page and inside (page)."
"The pictures themselves speak a lot. Maraming dapat na ipaliwanag," he said.
As such, President Aquino said he tasked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as the sole agency to conduct an investigation on the incident following allegations that it was a rubout.
Families of the fatalities have raised allegations of a rubout.
The President said he would await the results of the NBI investigation before making a more definite statement.
"I don’t want to prejudge or lead the investigation to a certain conclusion," he said.
The Chief Executive also dismissed reports that he no longer trust the PNP with the investigation on the shootout incident.
He said he ordered the NBI to conduct the investigation to avoid any biases.
"There’s no aspect of trust. (The) PNP is competent to investigate but, may mga magsasabi bakit mo paiimbestigahan ‘yung iniimbestigahan, at bakit ang mag-iimbestiga ay sariling entity na iniimbestigahan? So para ma-preclude na merong bias, favoritism, factionalism, etcetera, ilagay na natin ’yung mas klarong independent agency," the President noted.
Police earlier said the gun battle between government forces and the 13 alleged members of a criminal group on board two vehicles occurred around 3 p.m. Sunday along Maharlika Highway in Barangay Lumutan in Atimonan, Quezon after the group opened fire at police and military officers manning a checkpoint.
Among the 13 slain suspects were suspected "jueteng" lord Victorino Siman of Calamba, Laguna and his supposed bodyguards including three policemen, three soldiers and at least two alleged agents of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
The fatalities were identified as Superintendent Alfredo Consemino of EM’s Barrio, Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City; Special Police Officer 1 Gruet Mantuano of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro; PO1 Jeffrey Valdez of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; Air Force Staff Sgt. Armando Lescano of 407 Lt. Ano Street, Fernando Air Base in Lipa City;
The two men bearing ISAFP ID cards — Leonardo Marasigan of Maunong, Calamba, and Maximo Pelayo of Crossing Tigaon, Camarines Sur.