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De Lima on Atimonan incident: 'anything but a shootout'

There was no shootout between the group of suspected jueteng kingpin Vic Siman and policemen and soldiers at the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan.6, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.

"Definitely, no shootout," De Lima told reporters at the re-enactment at the crime scene Thursday morning.

She said she believes that the three witnesses in the Atimonan incident now in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation are credible.

"Wala kaming rason para pagdudahan ang kredibilidad ng mga witnesses na ito. Iyong una pa nga ayaw pa nila magsalita kasi natatakot sila. So we assured them of their safety and safety of their families then nakikicooperate na sila," De Lima added.

She said the three witnesses and their families are now under the Department of Justice's Witness Protection Program.

Based on the narration of the two of the three witnesses, De Lima said the witnesses were on board a truck overtaken by the two Montero vehicles which the 13 slain people, including Siman, were riding.

When the two Montero units reached the checkpoint area, several gunmen, some in uniform while others in plainclothes, appeared carrying signages while a military truck blocked the path.

The armed men ordered the passengers of the two vehicles to alight but when no one was getting off the Montero, a man in plain clothes shouted: "Fire! Fire!" the witnesses said.

The armed men began peppering the two Monteros with bullets which lasted for 20 minutes, the witnesses added.

One of the man fired at the several gunmen who again sprayed the vehicles with bullets for seven to eight minutes, the witnesses alleged.

Witnesses also  said a man from one of the Monteros got off and raised his hands but two gunmen, one in plainclothes and other in uniform, shot the victim until he fell down on the ground.