ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
35 Philippine cops, soldiers face slay raps
Publication Date : 07-03-2013
Agreeing with investigators’ findings of a summary execution, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III yesterday ordered the filing of multiple murder charges against 35 police officers and Army soldiers over the January 6 incident in Atimonan, Quezon province, that left 13 people dead.
Facing charges are Supt. Hansel Marantan, leader of the police team involved in the killings, his former immediate superior Chief Supt. James Melad, and 19 other policemen and 14 Army personnel, officials said.
Briefing reporters on the findings, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the probable motive for the killings was territorial rivalry between Vic Siman and Marantan involving jueteng, or illegal numbers racket, and other gambling activities in Laguna.
De Lima said Marantan was protecting a certain Ka Tita whose jueteng operations affected that of Siman’s.
The justice secretary said Siman, described as the gambling lord in the province, was also after the head of Marantan. “It was a race to get each other,” she said.
Aquino accepts findings in full
After a thorough review of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) executive report on the incident, the president “accepted its findings in full,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
“He has directed De Lima to file the appropriate criminal and administrative charges against Hansel Marantan, James Melad and others,” she said.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) officers also faced administrative charges.
“From the very beginning what the president said was, ‘We will find those responsible for this.’ If there is any culpability, we will press charges,” Valte said in a briefing.
A portion of the executive summary of the NBI report read: “Ultimately the NBI probe reached the conclusion that no shootout occurred, validating the initial result of the PNP fact-finding committee. The probe findings also showed that the victims were summarily executed and all indications point to a rubout.”
Three police officers and 10 others were killed in the alleged 20-minute gun battle at a checkpoint along a sparsely populated stretch of Maharlika Highway in Atimonan.
Marantan, leader of the team manning the checkpoint, was the only one wounded among 50 policemen and Army Special Forces troops who allegedly shot it out with the group of alleged “jueteng” operator Victor Siman, who also was killed.
Valte said the Department of Justice (DOJ) had an airtight case against the police officers, citing testimonial as well as documentary evidence.
“Many pieces of evidence were gathered by the PNP fact-finding [team] and the NBI investigation. They have eyewitness accounts, and then of course, documentary evidence,” Valte said, but declined to say if the witnesses included policemen present during the incident. “If you go through it, you will see the kind of case that the NBI and the DOJ built up.”
Valte quashed speculations that the announcement of the president’s action on the Atimonan incident report was meant to divert public attention from the crisis in Sabah created by the incursion of an armed group from the sultanate of Sulu.
“Some have been following up on this for some time, and we have been diligently doing so. It has no connection whatsoever with the incident and what’s in the news. For our part, 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 said.
Valte deferred to the PNP and the Department of the Interior and Local Government on what course of action to take against Marantan, Melad and other officers.
“I will leave that to the PNP and to the DILG but the instructions of the president were to file the necessary criminal and administrative charges,” she said.
“They will have an opportunity to present their side when the charges are filed.”
After getting a copy of the voluminous report from De Lima on February 7, the president admitted being overwhelmed by it.
“It’s actually not that long. It’s just five inches thick. It weighs over six kilos and the briefer on it is 64 pages. It was my first time to read a book looking at the ceiling while seated at a table,” Aquino said then.
Valte said Aquino had been preoccupied with the review, among other matters, until news of the Sabah standoff broke out.
All accounted for
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo, PNP spokesman, said the police personnel implicated were all accounted for and would be made available in the DOJ investigation.
“You can be sure that the PNP will cooperate especially in ensuring the availability of the policemen involved in this case,” Cerbo said.
He said the policemen were either under restriction or under custody. Marantan is still in the hospital.
With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan