'Shootout' that killed Sariaya mayor's son was staged, police say

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 21) — A Quezon police official suspects his men may have staged the alleged "shootout" that killed Sariaya, Quezon Mayor Marcelo Gayeta's son Christian and his companion Christopher Manalo last March 14.

Senior Supt. Joseph Arguelles said there was a discrepancy in the descriptions of the body builds of the victims and the two people who threatened a gas station employee in Tayabas City based on witnesses' accounts.

The two people seen in the gas station were alleged to be Christian and Manalo because they were wearing clothes similar to what the victims were wearing.

However, the witnesses could not confirm if the victims were the men in the station because the latter were wearing helmets.

"May pagdududa kami sa imbestigasyon namin dahil medyo may pagkakaiba sa build ng mga naggaling doon at saka yung description ng body build ng dalawang biktima," Arguelles told CNN Philippines' Balitaan Thursday.

[Translation: We have our suspicions based on our investigation because there was a discrepancy in the description of the builts of those who came from the gas station and that of the two victims.]

Prior to the encounter, police testimony also stated Gayeta and Manalo were stopped at a checkpoint and were caught with firearms.

This led the police to believe their men may have disguised themselves as the victims and threatened the gas station employee so their fellow officers would have a reason to pursue and shoot Christian and Manalo.

Further evidence also suggest they were apprehended before they were killed. A medico-legal report showed marks on the wrists of the victims indicating that they could have been handcuffed prior to their deaths.

This development comes just as Christian's body was being laid to rest.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) placed 18 men linked to the incident under restrictive custody of the Quezon Provincial Police. Five of them have been relieved, including the Quezon and Tayabas police chiefs and three other officers.15 have surfaced, but the Tayabas chief and two other officers are still missing as of writing.

Chief Supt. Edward Carranza, Calabarzon police chief, also aired his suspicions saying the trajectory of the two bullets in the gunshot wounds on the victims were questionable.

The National Bureau of Investigation-Quezon is now preparing double murder charges against the involved policemen.