Published — Wednesday 9 January 2013
Last update 9 January 2013 12:00 am
MANILA: Five people killed in a battle with Philippine security forces were policemen and soldiers, authorities said yesterday as they looked into claims the violence was part of an illegal gambling turf war. The official police report following the shootings in a town about 170 kilometers (105 miles) south of Manila on Sunday said security forces tried to stop armed members of a criminal gang at a road block, setting off a battle.
Thirteen “gang members” were killed, according to the initial account.
However national police chief spokesman Generoso Cerbo said yesterday that Senior Superintendent Alfredo Consemino, a top policemen in a town near where the shootings occurred, and two of his aides were among those killed. Armed forces spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos also confirmed two of the others shot dead were an air force lieutenant and a sergeant.
Another of the 13 killed was Victorino Atienza, who operated a highly lucrative illegal gambling operation called “jueteng”.
Separately, a US official said the unarmed drone found in central Philippine waters was launched from a US Navy ship during a combat exercise off Guam last year. He said the drone may have been washed by ocean currents to the country. US Embassy spokeswoman Bettina Malone said the BQM-74E drone was launched from a guided-missile destroyer, as a mock missile target during naval combat exercises off Guam’s coast in September.
The Philippine navy deployed a ship with ordnance experts after a diver and fishermen who found the drone over the weekend reported it may have been a bomb. The discovery sparked concerns because US troops are allowed to engage in exercises with local troops but are legally barred from engaging in combat operations in the country.
A joint commission overlooking annual combat exercises by US and Philippine troops as well as American ship visits has been asked to look into the drone’s discovery. Sen. Loren Legarda, who heads the Philippine Senate committee on foreign relations, asked the commission to check if any of the rules governing visits by American forces in the country had been breached. The drone’s discovery in Philippine waters “raises a serious concern of national security,” Legarda said.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Manila has been assured by the US Embassy “that the reported aerial vehicle is by design and purpose solely used for target practice and not armed or used for surveillance.”