Kin of Quezon encounter victims deny crime links
MANILA, Philippines - A Liberal Party (LP) political officer and community organizer was among the 13 people slain by police and the military in the reported shootout in Quezon province, the alleged gun-for-hire suspect's family said Tuesday.
The family of Tirso Lontoc, who who was among the 13 men killed in Atimonan Sunday afternoon, said their slain kin is neither is a part of any criminal syndicate nor a gun-for-hire group.
The Lontok family said Tirso is a Liberal Party political officer who was just asked by Victor Siman, the alleged leader of the slain 13 men, to help him talk to a community that will be affected by a small-scale mining project in Bicol.
Lontoc used to be a community organizer who worked with Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman.
A photo given to ABS-CBN News shows Lontoc and Soliman together.
"Dati nakakatrabaho pa nya sina Secretary Dinky Soliman, sila Secretary Ging Deles at simula nun ay parang, hanggang sa lumago ng lumago, nag-iba na pero nag-focus pa din siya sa non-government organization," said Tirso's sister Ningning.
Lontoc also used to work with Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Asis Perez in the "Tanggol Kalikasan" project.
He also served as administrator of the town of Sariaya, Quezon.
"Di namin matanggap iyun. Nagmamakaawa kami kay PNoy....maawa kayo sa amin. Mabait ang kapatid namin. Naniniwala kami na tinambangan talaga sila," said Tirso's relative, Belle Lontoc.
"Sa mga testigo, kung sino man nakakita. Parang awa niyo na po," she said.
They are relatives of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.
Demand for justice
The Lontoc family and relatives of the 12 other people killed in the alleged shootout are now demanding justice.
Five of the other fatalities are from Calamba, Laguna. Victor Siman, Gerry Siman, Victorino Atienza, Conrado Desillo, and Leonardo Marasigan, are related to one another.
"Binuhay ko ng maayos ang mga anak ko tapos ito lang," said Gerry's father Armando.
Rodolfo Siman said several items were also taken from his nephews. The items allegedly include a gold Rolex watch, designer bags, 5 i-Phones, and a huge sum of money.
"Pinatay nila, nawala pa yung gamit ng mga tao," he said.
The Siman family, meanwhile, admitted that Victor was an influential Small Town Lottery (STL) operator in Calamba and Batangas.
"Kumpetensya sa kanilang negosyo iyan. Maaring inggitan, maaring may napapasok sa teritoryo," said Rodolfo.
Victor's business partner in a security agency, police Superintendent Alfredo Consemino, was among those killed.
They were reportedly together on the day of the shootout, as their agency was providing security for a mining firm in Camarines Norte.
Consemino's family and friends are hurt over allegations he is part of a gun-for-hire group.
He was the Philippine National Police's chief of operations in Mimaropa.
"Iniingatan ng husband ko ang kanyang pangalan kahit kailan, gusto niya ipagmalaki sa anak niya na rerespetuhin siya ng anak niya," Consemino's wife said. "Pakinggan naman kami, kasi hindi naman, kung talagang encounter iyun 'di sana marami ring namatay, hindi lang sa isang side lang."
Two of Consemino's men, SPO1 Gruet Mantuano and PO1 Jeffrey Valdez, were also killed.
In Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, Mantuano's relatives were inconsolable as his body arrived.
Mantuano's eldest child was quiet, eyes swollen from crying and fists clenched.
Mantuano's father believes the police officer merely accompanied Consemino.
"Boss niya iyun eh kaya susunod siya sa mga utos. Galit ako sa mga pulis na pumapatay," said Virgilio Mantuano.
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces is looking into the deaths of 2 soldiers killed in the alleged shootout.
They are 1st Lt. Jimbrean Justiani and Staff Ggt. Armando Lescano.
Lescano's daughter Eloisa told ANC on Tuesday that her father was just working as a freelance security escort.
She is also demanding justice for her father's death and vowed to clear his name.
"Masakit po iyun sa side namin kasi kilala po namin, mababait pong tao, nasasaktan lang po kami dun sa miyembro daw siya ng gang. Sa totoo lang po kahit magtanong tanong po, wala hong nagawa yang kahit ano na labag sa batas," she said.
"Ang pangit naman po yung laman ng balita, na yung father ko na wala naman po talagang ginawa, napasama lang po dun at nagsecurity. Aakusahan nila. Namatay na nga po, ganyan pa yung binabato, ang pangit po kasi," she added.
President Benigno Aquino has ordered a thorough probe into the incident.
Malacañang assured the public there will be no whitewash in the investigation.
Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said investigators will look into all angles, including possible rivalry over the illegal numbers game jueteng.
They will also investigate reports that millions of pesos carried by the fatalities are missing.
"The presumption is there was regularity in the duty. We will not be surprised if there would be suspicions but anything can happen during encounters so let's wait for result of the fact-finding team and they will look into the observation," he said.
"The chief PNP has not imposed any deadline, but the instruction is for them to be thorough and to do the investigation properly and to pursue the truth." - with reports from Jay Ruiz and Gretchen Malalad, ABS-CBN News; Joan Panopio and Sarita Kare, ABS-CBN Southern Tagalog; ANC