Cops, soldiers in Quezon ‘rubout’ face murder raps-A A +A
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
MANILA (Updated) - At least 35 police officers and soldiers will face multiple murder charges after Malacanang adopted in full the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) report that showed the Atimonan, Quezon incident in January that left 13 people dead was not a shootout but a “rubout.”
The NBI report concluded that the victims, who were in two SUVs, were summarily executed at the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, about 120 kilometers southeast of Manila, and there was no shootout as claimed by the security personnel.
Some victims, including three police officers and two air force personnel, were armed but were not able to fire their weapons, investigators said.
"The NBI submits that the pieces of evidence gathered support the filing of multiple murder charges…, as shown by their concerted acts in killing all the victims, taking all advantage of their superiority in fire power, number of personnel, and the lack of opportunity to defend themselves," said NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas in the 64-page executive summary submitted to President Benigno Aquino III last month.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President has directed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to also file appropriate administrative charges against the suspects that include 21 policemen and 14 soldiers.
The policemen include sacked Calabarzon police head Chief Superintendent James Melad, Calabarzon police deputy intelligence head Superintendent Hansel Marantan, Senior Inspector John Paolo Carracedo, SPO1 Arturo Sarmiento, Superintendent Ramon Balauag, Senior Inspector Timoteo Orig, SPO3 Joselito De Guzman, SPO1 Carlo Cataquiz, PO3 Eduardo Oronan, PO2 Nelson Indal, PO2 Al Bhazar Jailani, PO1 Wryan Sardea, PO1 Rodel Talento, Police Chief Inspector Grant Gollod, Inspector Ferdinand Aguilar, Inspector Evaristo San Juan, PO3 Benedict Dimayuga, PO2 Ronnie Serdena, PO1 Esperidion Corpuz Jr., PO1 Bermie De Leon, and PO1 Allen Ayubo.
Soldiers tagged in the killings are Lieutenant Colonel Monico Abang (Commander, 1st Special Forces Batallion), Captain Erwin Macalinao (commanding officer), First Lieutenant Rico Tagure, Technical Sergeant Melanio Balauitan, Corporal Clark Mag-usara, 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 Mark Zaldy Docdoc, Private Emergin Barrete, and Private Michard Mangao.
Murder raps will be filed against them next week with the Department of Justice, according to NBI deputy director for regional operations services Virgilio Mendez.
De Lima will then form a panel of prosecutors who will conduct the preliminary investigation on the complaint that will be lodged by the NBI and relatives of the victims.
The NBI report also recommended the filing of cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.
"I'm happy that the President adopted our report but still sad why things like this are almost usual occurrence in our society. Killings happen almost every day, isn't it?" Mendez told Sun.Star.
The NBI said that there was no shootout with the group of suspected illegal gambling operator Vic Siman and all evidence point to a rubout. This echoed the finding of the Philippine National Police fact-finding committee and De Lima after she had an ocular visit at the crime scene.
Relaying witnesses' accounts, De Lima said there was actually no checkpoint designated in that area, and that the checkpoint signage was placed on the road only as the two Mitsubishi Montero vehicles approached.
According to the witness, several armed men approached the two vehicles and ordered them to come out.
However, when the order went unheeded, their leader, believed to be Calabarzon police deputy intelligence head Superintendent Hansel Marantan, shouted "fire!" The operatives then promptly complied and fired at the vehicles.
Marantan, reportedly a protector of illegal numbers game “jueteng,” was the lone injured in the incident. The investigation found that the killings were a plan by Marantan to eliminate his rival in the illegal gambling operation.
Marantan, however, denied any wrongdoing.
The NBI report also noted the intentional act of tampering evidence by changing the positions of guns and other objects to mislead investigators or wipe out traces of the crime, or to prevent authorities from tracing irregularities in the implementation of checkpoint operations.
"Their acts showed a community of purpose or conspiracy. When Carracedo tampered with the crime scene to project an alleged 'shootout,' nobody from the group tried to intervene and stop him. Instead, they kept silent on the same," the report said.
There is no indication as well that operatives who participated in the killing under the Case Operation Plan (Coplan) Armado had desisted or prevented their group from shooting the victims, even when one of them (environmentalist Tirso Lontok Jr.) was already raising his hands.
"When Marantan's group illegally set up a 'checkpoint,' or more accurately a dragnet, no one from these operatives questioned its propriety from the time of the briefing up to its execution, and thereafter. These are indications of their concerted efforts to perpetrate the commission of the crime or, at least the least, knowledge of what was happening or taking place," the NBI said.
Valte said that 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 the incident.
Among those who were off the hook was Marantan's boss, Calabarzon intelligence chief Police Senior Superintendent Manuel Abu, for lack of participation in the preparation of Coplan Armado, while 10 soldiers led by 1st Lieutenant Ronald Iglesia only acted as reinforcement to the military contingent.
The NBI said Iglesia's group did not join the other soldiers who flagged down the vehicles. (Virgil Lopez/With AP/Sunnex)