Rubout over jueteng: Cops to face murder raps
Edu Punay, Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - It was a rubout, not a shootout, and a jueteng turf war was the likely motive for the execution of 13 men in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6.

After a thorough review of the report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the mass killing, President Aquino decided to adopt its findings in full, Malacañang announced yesterday.

Aquino directed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to file charges of multiple murder against Calabarzon police director Chief Superintendent James Melad, Superintendent Hansel Marantan, and 34 other police and military personnel for “summarily executing” the 13 men.

The NBI implicated Melad for allowing the operation, which it described in its 64-page report as Marantan’s “well calculated plan to close the book on Vic Siman under the pretext of ‘Coplan Armado,’ using government forces and resources.”

Siman, an alleged jueteng operator in the region, was the target of the supposed police operation. He was said to be a rival of another jueteng operator linked to Marantan.

The accused policemen initially reported the 13 men were members of a criminal gang who engaged them in a gun battle after ramming through a security road block in Atimonan last Jan. 6.

But after media reports showed that among those killed was Siman, as well as five police and military officers who were allegedly protecting him, President Aquino ordered an investigation.

“The NBI submits that the pieces of evidence gathered support the filing of multiple murder charges against PCSupt. Melad, PSupt. Marantan, other police officers and soldiers involved in the Atimonan incident, as shown by their concerted acts in killing all the victims, taking advantage of their superiority in firepower, number of personnel and the lack of opportunity of the victims to defend themselves,” read the NBI report that was submitted to the President.

Presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said Aquino decided to accept the findings after studying five inches of documents plus annexes.

“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.

Apart from Melad and Marantan, those to be charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) today are 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 Officers 3 (PO3) Eduardo Oronan and Benedict Dimayuga, PO2 Nelson Indal and Al Bhazar Jailani, PO1 Wryan Sardea, Rodel Talento, Grant Gollod, Ronnie Serdena, Esperidion Corpuz Jr., Bernie de Leon, Allen Ayubo and Inspectors Ferdinand Aguilar, Evaristo San Juan.

Among the military personnel to be charged are Lt. Colonel Monico Abang, Capt. Erwin Macalinao, 1Lt. Rico Tagure, T/Sgt. Melanio Balauitan, Cpl. Clark Magusara, Pfcs. Michael Franco, Kirby Tam Coronel, Alvin Roque Pabon, Ricky Jay Borja, Melvin Lumalang, Gil Gallego, Pvts. Marc Zaldy Docdoc, Emergin Barrete and Michard Manago.

De Lima said the NBI based its findings on the accounts of three eyewitnesses and physical and forensic evidence.

“There was no shootout but rather it’s a case of summary execution or rubout. There’s no indication that victims fired from inside the SUVs (sport utility vehicles). The apparent objective of the operation was to kill all victims,” De Lima said.

She said the NBI findings indicated that some of the victims were already lying on the ground, slumped on the seat or ready to surrender but were finished off.

She said the NBI report also found that Marantan was really shot by one of the 13 men, environmentalist Tirso Lontok Jr., outside the vehicles after the initial round of gunfire.

De Lima revealed there was “disturbing finding” of cover-up in the incident, citing proof of tampering with the crime scene.

For instance, some of the operatives took the firearms of those killed and fired them to make it appear there was shootout, according to a witness.

She also said there was questionable conduct in the procedure taken by the police scene of the crime operatives (SOCO) in investigating the incident. She added the police also did not surrender the firearms used in the operation.

De Lima directed the NBI to include charges of obstruction of justice against some of the operatives as well as the SOCO team.

As to the motive, the NBI revealed the turf war in Southern Tagalog between Siman and another alleged jueteng operator, Tita Dinglasan, was the most probable angle.

Jueteng is an underground lottery known to generate millions of pesos often used to finance campaigns by corrupt local politicians, who are known to control private armies or employ policemen as personal bodyguards.

Probers gathered information establishing the link between Marantan and Dinglasan, a jueteng operator in Laguna province.

“Simply put, Vic Siman was also after the head of Superintendent Marantan while the latter was also using his authority as a decorated law enforcer to silence the former. From all indications, they were eventually to cross paths with tragic consequences,” the NBI report concluded.

The NBI also cleared the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) of any liability in the incident.

“The PAOCC had no hand in the questionable ‘checkpoint operation’ carried out in Atimonan, Quezon by PSupt. Marantan and his men which resulted in the killing of 13 people,” the report said.

The NBI bought the explanation of PAOCC executive director Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta that their commission did not approve Case Operation Plan Armado (Coplan Armado) since its proponents led by Marantan failed to submit several requirements.

Case buildup

Malacañang said it would now be up to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) as well as the PNP to determine the fate of the police and military officers involved in the case.

“They will have an opportunity to present their side when the charges are filed,” Valte said.

Valte said the President had given assurance at the outset that they would determine who were responsible for the Atimonan incident and “if there is any culpability… we will press charges.”

She said Aquino’s message was clear and that was to investigate what really happened, since “especially if you are in uniform, you cannot be the one to violate the laws.”

Asked if the government could file an airtight case and present strong evidence, Valte said the PNP fact-finding committee was able to gather a lot of testimonial and documentary evidence based on witnesses’ accounts and other factors.

“You will see the kind of case that the NBI and the DOJ built up,” Valte said.

The PNP welcomed the approval of the President to file criminal charges against the lawmen involved in the shooting.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima said even prior to this new development, the national police has already taken measures to ensure the availability of all police personnel involved in the ongoing administrative and now criminal case of multiple murder.

“Today, I would like to report that they are all accounted for,” Purisima said. “As an investigator myself, the NBI findings are no longer a surprise, having personally observed glaring violations of police operational procedures since Day One.”

Purisima said the NBI findings complemented the result of the investigation conducted by the PNP Internal Affairs Service, which recommended administrative charges against the policemen involved.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said all the 22 police officers are under restriction and custody.

Cerbo said Marantan, the team leader in the operation and the only police officer wounded, remains in hospital for treatment due to a damaged tendon.

The military, for its part, said they respect the decision to file charges against the Army troopers involved in the shooting.

“We submit to due process. We have faith in the rule of law,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes said they would comply with the court that would handle the case against the soldiers.

“In the interest of transparency, we are willing to present them to court in the hope that our soldiers can justify the actions they did in Atimonan,” Coballes said.

AFP Judge Advocate General Brig. Gen. Marian Aleido said the military officers tagged in the rubout would face court-martial, while the non-commissioned officers would be dismissed from the service.

Officers refer to soldiers whose rank is second lieutenant and above.

“With respect to officers, the chief of staff can decide whether to leave their fate to the court-martial or the efficiency and separation board but in this particular incident, most likely they may be brought to the general court-martial,” Aleido said.

“With respect to the enlisted personnel, they can be summarily discharged without 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,” she added.

The soldiers implicated in the Atimonan incident would be detained while the case is being tried before the military tribunal. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Alexis Romero

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