Quezon ops had Palace OK, axed cop insists
Sandy Araneta, Sandy Araneta a, Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A day after his relief as head of the Calabarzon police, Chief Superintendent James Melad claimed yesterday that the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) gave the go-signal for “Coplan Armado.”

The PAOCC and Malacañang had earlier denied this.

“Coplan Armado” reportedly targeted a gang of hired guns in Southern Luzon, but which ended in a supposed encounter that killed 13 men in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6.

Melad made the revelation in a press conference held at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila, where he and some 40 other police and military officers were summoned to shed light on the incident that resulted in the death of 13, including alleged jueteng kingpin Vic Siman and police Superintendent Alfredo Consemino.

Meanwhile, the official report of the police fact-finding body tasked to investigate the incident revealed that it was an ambush and not a shootout.

The report said the crime scene was doctored to make it appear that there was an exchange of fire between the group of Siman and the joint police-military contingent positioned at the checkpoint in Barangay Lumutan.

The fact-finding body also recommended that the personnel involved in the supposed encounter be charged criminally and administratively.

Superintendent Hansel Marantan, the team leader and the only officer wounded in the supposed encounter, did not show up at the NBI yesterday, as he remained confined in hospital.

Melad’s claims were contrary to the earlier declaration of PAOCC executive Reginald Villasanta that the PAOCC did not approve the coplan (case operation plan).

“In fact, based on the declaration of the PAOCC, the disapproval is only on the portion of the funding of the coplan. Its operation still has to go,” he said.

Melad said he signed and approved the operational plan although he did not know the complete contents of the report and its details.

“We have targets, criminal elements, criminal activities, especially during this period of preparations for the forthcoming elections. We have really been into the possible arrest of criminal elements involved in criminal activities like gun-for-hire activities and those in possession of loose firearms,” the official said.

He said they presented themselves to the NBI to show they are cooperating with the ongoing investigation contrary to earlier reports that they were uncooperative.

He said their presence is in deference to the order of President Aquino for them to cooperate in the investigation.

“As of now we have yet to see the report of the PNP fact-finding committee, and from there we can give our response,” Melad said.

The fact-finding report also showed that there was excessive force used, judging from the extent of damage on the vehicles and wounds sustained by the victims like Tirso Lontok who had 14 gunshot wounds; Leonardo Marasigan with seven, and Consemino, six.

The report also raised “doubt as to whether all the firearms recovered were actually used” during the incident. One of the recovered firearms “had masking tape wrapped around the muzzle.”

Melad said “Coplan Armado” was submitted by Marantan to PAOCC for possible funding.

“The details, I cannot disclose. This is a highly confidential matter and it’s not supposed to be disclosed,” said Melad.

He also appealed to media to base their reports on facts, not on opinions and speculations.

“I was not at the crime scene. Even the reporters were not there at the time of the incident. So I cannot comment as to what really happened, and likewise, you (journalists) have no right to make comments because you were not also there,” he said.

When pressed for some significant details on the report submitted by the provincial director and chief of police to the PNP, Melad said the report stated there was a shootout.

“The way it was reported, there was a shootout. The PNP elements were provoked. Inunahan sila sa putok (they were fired upon first),” he said.

The beleaguered police official also criticized the people who leaked the PNP report to the media. He said this is “one case of irresponsibility if there was a leak.”

Chief Superintendent Federico Castro, head of the fact-finding committee, said PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima has ordered an investigation on how the draft of the report was leaked to the media, including the pictures of the victims, one showing firearms beside them (victims) and none in another.

Castro, deputy chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and Melad belong to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’82.

“I have not talked to him yet. But I hope he’ll understand that I’m just doing my job,” Castro said when asked if he and his mistah had talked recently.

Of the 49 police and military men subpoenaed by the NBI, only 30 showed up at the bureau.

Aside from Melad, other prominent police and military officials who showed up at the NBI were Senior Superintendent Glenn Dumlao; Maj. Gen. Alan Luga, Southern Luzon command chief; Lt. Col. Monico Abang; Capt. Erwin Macalinao, commander of the 3rd Special Forces Company; Col. Alex Lavina; Superintendent Ramon Balauag; Chief Inspector Grant Gollod, and Superintendents Manuel Abu, Edwin Emi, and Valeriano de Leon.

Dumlao, chief of PRO4A special concern unit, said the Atimonan checkpoint was “legitimate.”

Lawyer Crisanto Buela, who represented the entire AFP Special Forces Battalion involved in the shootout, said his clients did not give another affidavit or sworn statement because they had given their respective statements which were submitted by their commanding general to the PNP fact-finding committee.  – Non Alquitran, Arnell Ozaeta


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