Atimonan mayor in the dark about police checkpoint

Posted at 01/09/2013 8:52 AM | Updated as of 01/09/2013 7:50 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The mayor of Atimonan, Quezon on Wednesday said he was not informed that police had set up a checkpoint near the town's boundary before the alleged shootout that killed 13 men took place.

Mayor Jose Mendoza said he was not informed that police set up a checkpoint in that area especially since he had just come back from vacation.

"Unfortunately, I was in San Diego last Christmas until New Year. I got back last Sunday and I was here when the incident happened. I was surprised by the news. I did not know that a checkpoint was there," he told radio dzMM.

Mendoza said he presumed that his own police chief was given prior notice that a checkpoint would be set up. He noted that his own officer-in-charge was not informed about any police operation.

"Hindi rin niya nalaman. Parang hindi nabigyan ng abiso. Ang aking hepe naman ay nanduon sa incident. The following day, in-interview ko siya at pinuntahan ko rin yung area," he said.

The mayor said his police chief has vowed to cooperate with the investigation on the incident.

Mendoza said the boundary of Plaridel and Atimonan, Quezon is not usually a place where police set up checkpoints. He said the only reason why police would set up a checkpoint in that area is if they received intelligence reports that criminal elements would pass there.

"I have been in government service for almost 20 years. Ang mga checkpoint alam ko linalagay sa lugar na maraming tao, maraming bahay. pero itong checkpoint na ito ay inilagay sa isang lugar na malayo sa bahayan," he said.

He also confirmed that at least one resident was informed to stay away from the checkpoint.

Mendoza denied that jueteng thrives in Atimonan, saying that legitimate small-town lottery operations are conducted in his jurisdiction.

He welcomed reports that the National Bureau of Investigation will investigate the incident.

At least 13 people were killed in an alleged shootout in Atimonan, Quezon last Sunday. A ranking police official, two other policemen, 3 soldiers and an environmental group officer were among those killed in the incident.

Malacanan has tasked the NBI to investigate the case amid reports the incident was sparked by a turf war over jueteng operations.