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Probers see 'deliberate effort' to make Quezon bloodbath appear like a shootout

January 16, 2013 6:33pm
(Updated 7:45 p.m.) Police investigators probing the January 6 bloodbath in Atimonan, Quezon, that left 13 people dead said there was a "deliberate effort" to make it appear that a shootout took place in the area, bolstering suspicions that the victims were ambushed.

According to the report of the Philippine National Police (PNP) fact-finding team, a copy of which was obtained by GMA News' Emil Sumangil, some items recovered at the crime scene "did not appear to be in their logical positions relative to the incident."

On Wednesday, the regional director of the Calabarzon police confirmed that he approved the proposal for "case operation plan [Coplan] Armado," whose operatives figured in the Atimonan massacre.

"As far as I know I've signed the case operational plan. And the case operational plan was submitted by Superintendent [Hansel] Marantan to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission for its possible funding," Chief Superintendent James Melad, Region 4-A (Calabarzon) police director, told reporters after attending a National Bureau of Investigation probe on the incident.

The report of the PNP fact-finding team, led by Chief Superintendent Federico Castro, said "the possibility that an ambush happened cannot be discounted."

On January 6, 13 men—including an environmentalist, two policemen, and two Air Force personnel—were killed by law enforcers after their two-vehicle convoy allegedly ignored a first checkpoint in Atimonan town. Police initially said the fatalities were members of a gun-for-hire group — a claim denied by the slain men's relatives.

The fact-finding team concluded that there was "excessive use of force" during the incident, based on the gunshot wounds sustained by the fatalities and the extent of the damage on the vehicles. It recommended the filing of both criminal and administrative charges against the law enforcers involved in the incident.

Gun placement

The PNP report said a .45 caliber pistol, which tested negative of gun powder residue, "was deliberately placed near the hand" of Leonardo Marasigan, one of the fatalities.

Another fatality, Staff Sergeant Armando Lescano, initially had a firearm tucked on his right waist, but the gun was later "placed near his hand," the PNP report said.

The report added that SPO1 Gruet Montuano, one of the policemen killed in the incident, initially had an M16 rifle slung behind his head, but the firearm was later found between his legs.

The findings of the PNP have been turned over to the NBI, which was designated by President Benigno Aquino III as the sole investigating body on the Quezon incident.

'Doubt' on recovered firearms

The PNP report also stated "doubt as to whether all the firearms recovered were actually used" during the incident.

The fact-finding team said one of the recovered firearms "had masking tape wrapped around the muzzle." The M16 rifle was also "on a muzzle down position" when it was recovered between Montuano's legs, the report added.

The PNP report also said three fired cartridge cases of an M16 rifle were recovered in the first vehicle in the convoy, but the same firearm was found inside the second vehicle.

The report added that one of the fatalities was found "lying over" an M14 rifle, and that certain "unauthorized persons" were seen beyond the established police line after the incident.

'Doubtful' location of fatalities

The report of the PNP fact-finding team also noted the "doubtful" location of two of the fatalities, who were found outside the vehicles in the convoy.

The bodies of Marasigan and environmentalist Tirso "Jun" Lontok Jr. were found "lying face down inside the open canal," the report said.

The investigators said Lontok sustained 14 gunshot wounds--nine of which were on his extremities--while Marasigan sustained seven gunshot wounds. — KBK, GMA News
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