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Aquino orders charges vs. cops, soldiers in Atimonan bloodbath

March 6, 2013 1:24pm
(Updated 6:21 p.m.) Agreeing that the January 6 bloodbath in Atimonan, Quezon, was a was a rubout and not a shootout, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file criminal and administrative charges against Police Superintendent Hansel Marantan and the other police and military officials involved.

In a statement Wednesday, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino has accepted "in full" the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regarding the incident, which resulted in the deaths of 13 people, including active police officers, at a police checkpoint manned by Marantan's group.

"After a thorough review of the NBI Executive Report on the incident in Atimonan, Quezon, the President has accepted its findings in full. He has directed Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima to file the appropriate criminal and administrative charges against Hansel Marantan, [Chief Superintendent] James Andres Melad, and others," Valte said.

Melad was chief of the Calabarzon police at the time of the incident.

“Ultimately, the NBI probe reached the conclusion that no shootout occurred, thus, validating the initial result of the PNP (Philippine National Police) fact-finding committee. The probe findings also showed that the victims were summarily executed and all indications point to a rubout,” Valte said, reading from the report.

Aside from Melad and Marantan, 19 other policemen were ordered charged:

  • Senior Inspector John Paolo Carracedo,
  • Senior Police Officer 1 Arturo Sarmiento,
  • Superintendent Ramon Balauag,
  • Senior Inspector Timoteo Orig,
  • Senior Police Officer 3 Joselito De Guzman,
  • Senior Police Officer 1 Carlo Cataquiz,
  • Police Officer 3 Eduardo Oronan,
  • PO2 Nelson Indal, PO2 Al Bhazar Jailani,
  • PO1 Wryan Sardea,
  • PO1 Rodel Talento,
  • PCI Grant Gollod,
  • Inspector Ferdinand Aguilar,
  • Inspector Evaristo San Juan,
  • PO3 Benedict Dimayuga,
  • PO2 Ronnie Serdena,
  • PO1 Esperidion Corpuz Jr.,
  • PO1 Bernie De Leon and
  • PO1 Allen Ayubo

Meanwhile, the 14 military personnel to be charged are:

  • Lieutenant Colonel Monico Abang (Battalion Commander)
  • Captain Erwin Macalinao,
  • First Lieutenant Rico Tagure,
  • Technical Sergeant Melanio Balauitan,
  • Cpl. Clark Magusara,
  • Private First Class (PFC) Michael Franco,
  • PFC Kirby-Tam Coronel,
  • PFC Alvin Roque Pabon,
  • PFC Ricky Jay Borja,
  • PFC Melvin Lumalang,
  • PFC Gil Gallego,
  • Private (PVT) Marc Zaldy Docdoc,
  • PVT. Emergin Barrete and
  • PVT. Michard Mangao.

“The recommendation is for multiple murder charges,” Valte said, adding that the conclusion reached by NBI investigators was that no shootout occurred, belying the claim of Marantan, who was wounded in the incident.

"Police Superintendent Marantan claimed that he had reliable information proving that private armed groups were being utilized not only in illegal numbers game but also in the illegal drugs trade and also by politicians for the liquidation of their political opponents," the  64-page NBI report said.

"Unfortunately, in a classic case of intelligence failure, the identities of the other occupants of the vehicles were not accurately established before the actual operation, thus resulting to the senseless massacre of innocent victims," it added.

Marantan-Siman rivalry

The NBI also said the killings may be attributed to the apparent rivalry between Marantan and Vic Siman, one of the 13 fatalities, over jueteng operations in the region. The report said that there was conspiracy among the respondents, as shown by their concerted acts in killing all the victims, taking advantage of their superiority in number and fire power, and the “lack of opportunity of the victims to defend  themselves.”

Siman was described in the report as a video karera operator who ventured into jueteng until he became a gambling lord in Laguna. He came into direct competition with a certain Ka Tita, allegedly an Ermita club operator who turned to gambling operations supposedly under the protection of Marantan.

The NBI said that Coplan Armado — the police operation that led to the establishment of checkpoints in the province — was conceptualized based on the alleged intelligence information collated by Marantan, disclosing the involvement of several individuals in jueteng within Region IV-A, and in the turf wars among their “financiers/operators.”

The NBI report, citing eye witness accounts and physical, ballistic and forensic evidence, further stated that the apparent objective of the operation was to kill all the victims, some of which were shot at close range.

Marantan also violated police operational procedure for checkpoint operations, rules of engagement and crime scene inquests, making the operation illegal.

“From all indications, the intent of the operatives was not to conduct a usual checkpoint operation, which is to check on possible violation of laws that may be committed by individuals and motorists plying along the road or highways. Rather, the ‘checkpoint’ was intended to kill Victor Siman and company,” the report said.

At a separate press briefing, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Coplan Armado "gave Marantan the perfect cover to go after Siman."

She described the Atimonan incident was a “well calculated plan to close the book on Vic Siman under the pretext of Coplan Armado, using government forces and resources. The fault of the other victims was that they were with the wrong company, at the wrong place and the wrong time.”

All accounted for

At Camp Crame, National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima said all police officers involved in the Atimonan operation "are all accounted for.

"Prior to this new development, the PNP has already taken measures to ensure the availability of all the police personnel involved in the ongoing administrative and now criminal case of multiple murder," Purisima said in a statement.

"In fact, the NBI findings complemented the result of the investigation conducted by the PNP Internal Affairs Service which recommended administrative charges against the PNP personnel involved," he added.

Purisima said the Atimonan incident should "serve as a lesson for the men and women of
the PNP to properly observe police operational procedures in the performance of duty of serving and protecting the people."

The military, for its part, said it will subject the soldiers involved in the operation to the "military justice system."

"Appropriate charges will be filed against them... they will besubjected to the miltiary justice system in which magkakaroon sila ng opportuinity to give their side," said Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos.

The officers face the possibility of being tried before a military tribunal, said AFP judge advocate general Brig. Gen. Marian Aleido. 

As for the enlisted personnel, Aleido said they "can be summarily discharged without the need of a trial because we have Circular 17, series of 1987, that authorizes the Armed Forces of the Philippines to separate or dismiss enlisted personnel who are involved in incidents like this."

Legitimate operation

Marantan's group said the 13 were killed in a legitimate operation against members of a gun-for-hire group. Witnesses, however, said the victims, which also included an environmentalist, were ambushed.

The NBI, the sole agency tasked by Aquino to look into the incident, said in its report that the policemen involved were seen firing the fallen men's guns "one by one into the air and other directions.”

Meanwhile, when asked on the timing of the report’s release, Valte said it was not meant to divert the public's attention from the ongoing armed conflict between supporters of a Filipino sultan and Malaysian security forces in Sabah.

"From the very start, the President had assured the public of a thorough investigation which would be the basis for holding to account, those found culpable in this incident," she said.

“We have been diligently [following up the reports]. At ngayong natapos na po wala naman po siyang connection doon, kung ano po man ‘yung nangyayari ngayon at ‘yung mga nasa balita ngayon. Ang sa amin lang po, we promised the public that as soon as the report had been fully reviewed, we will make the results known and we are sticking to that commitment,” she added. Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK/RSJ, GMA News

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