Seven suspected members of a robbery group were killed in an encounter with policemen in Batangas province early Monday morning, a police official said.
Interviewed on Unang Balita, Colonel Edwin Quilates, provincial director of Batangas police, said authorities are still determining the identities of the slain suspects. They are also investigating if there are other members of the robbery group.
"Pito 'yung napatay ngayon, wala pa tayong identities. Hindi natin alam kung may kasama pa itong mga 'to," he said, adding CCTV footage seems to indicate that the suspects, who were on board a van, had cohorts following them in another vehicle.
"Doon sa pag-aaral namin doon sa CCTV, parang may kasunod pa na isang sasakyan na maaaring nakalusot. Hindi namin napansin, nakatakbo... So maaaring may kagrupo pa itong napatay na 'to," Quilates said.
A spot police report said the encounter occurred at 4:45 a.m. in Barangay Banyaga in Agoncillo after the suspects, who were on board a white van, ignored a checkpoint and fired at the policemen manning it.
"The suspects fired upon the responding personnel which prompted the latter to returned [sic] fire," the police report said.
"The exchange of gunfire resulted in the neutralization of the suspects while the PNP Patrol vehicle used by the responding PNP personnel sustained couple of gunshots and fortunately, no personnel was hurt during the said gun battle."
The checkpoint at Barangay Banyaga was set up to block a white Toyota Hi-Ace van (TIH 344) that reportedly ignored and rammed the barriers of a Commission on Elections (Comelec) checkpoint in Barangay Berinayan in Laurel town.
Police are linking the suspects to the series of robbery incidents in the province, the latest of which occurred in a grocery store in Taal where the culprits took away more or less P150,000.
The group is also said to be behind two robbery incidents in an agriculture store in San Jose town in August and October last year where the suspects carted away a total of P1.3 million in cash. —with Anna Felicia Bajo/KBK, GMA News