Ochoa: Inquirer news report ‘completely erroneous’-A A +A
Friday, January 11, 2013
MANILA (Updated) -- Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa on Friday denied authorizing the police operation in Atimonan town, Quezon province that led to the death of 13 people, saying that report published in a national broadsheet was “completely erroneous.”
“I wish to point out though that a news report saying that the Palace okayed the operation is completely erroneous,” Ochoa said in a statement issued to Malacanang reporters.
“The operations plan that was cited in the Inquirer report is a confidential proposal that was not approved,” he added.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer report published Friday said the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) headed by Ochoa approved the operation in Quezon with code-name “Coplan Armado,” allegedly targeting only one man – Victor Siman, who died during the clash.
Siman was allegedly an operator of illegal numbers game “jueteng.”
The report said the Philippine National Police described the 12 others killed in the shootout as “collateral damage.”
But Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta, PAOCC executive director, also said the police operation was not approved by the commission.
“We at PAOCC have nothing to do with the operation. If it was approved by the commission, we should have been involved in every step of the way,” Villasanta said, noting that not a single PAOCC operative was present during the Atimonan operation.
PAOCC deputy executive director, Senior Superintendent Ranier Idio, said the commission was deeply saddened that Ochoa’s name was dragged into the issue.
“Executive Secretary Ochoa has no knowledge about the project proposal. In fact, the proposal did not even reach him because it was already turned down at the level of the PAOCC executive director,” Idio said.
Villasanta and Idio confirmed that the commission received last November a project proposal from Superintendent Hansel Marantan.
Marantan and Superintendent Glen Dumlao, who the PAOCC officials said "are not members of the PAOCC," sought permission from the commission to conduct the operation in Quezon, but the request was denied.
“What we received was a project proposal and that was not approved,” Villasanta said.
He explained that any project seeking assistance of the PAOCC should be approved by the board and the executive director.
“In this particular case, however, I wish to point out that I have not approved the said project. We have no prior knowledge about anything related to the Atimonan incident,” Villasanta said.
As a matter of procedure, he said any operation supported by PAOCC should be cleared and coordinated with the commission.
He said authorities are investigating how the operation was able to proceed despite the denial.
Villasanta refused to give details about the project proposal, saying it was a classified document.
“I have no authority to discuss the contents of the document, which was classified as secret. Besides, the project proposal contains information that could be very damaging to some people,” he explained.
“In fairness to the subjects of the project proposal, the contents therein are just information on the case, these are not yet the facts of the case,” he added.
At the same time, Villasanta clarified that the role and mandate of the PAOCC were entirely different from the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF).
“Unlike the PAOCTF that was really actively operating on the ground, PAOCC is strictly involved in providing support and capacity building,” he said.
“We do not compete with other law enforcement agencies. We only provide legal, technical and sometimes logistical support to them in their fight against organized crime,” he added.
With the involvement of his agency on the issue, Ochoa said he has directed PAOCC personnel to fully cooperate with authorities investigating the matter.
“I share the concern of those who seek clarifications regarding the circumstances that led to the loss of lives, and I am confident that the inquiry to be conducted by the NBI will help produce an accurate account of the events surrounding the shootout,” Ochoa said.
In a separate interview with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima during the traditional vin d’ honneur in Malacanang, she said the supposed involvement of Ochoa and the PAOCC will also be investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation, which was earlier designated as the sole investigator in the shootout.
“That will be looked into by the NBI definitely because isa nga sa mga pinaka-core question is malaman what was that mission all about? Who authorized it first? What is the background of that mission?” she said.
De Lima, who is a member of PAOCC, said she was not informed about the police mission.
“Nothing has been imparted or referred or mentioned to any of us,” she stressed.
She said the NBI will have to verify the statement of Superintendent Marantan, who was the leader of the police team at the joint police-military checkpoint where the firefight occurred.
Marantan said he has submitted the case operation plan (coplan) to Ochoa’s commission.
Marantan and the rest of his team in the Calabarzon police intelligence group were sacked in light of the incident.
“We will have to verify that kasi somebody must have authorized that unless gawa-gawa lang yan ni Superintendent Marantan,” said de Lima.
“Tatanungin si Marantan ano ang basehan niya. If no superior has ever authorized that mission, ano ang basehan nya? If it was an authorized mission, by whom, and what exactly? It can be an authorized mission pero iba naman pala dapat ang objective of that mission. Pwede rin ganoon. There is a general operation or a general plan targeting certain criminal groups or criminal syndicates but maaaring iba naman ang scope and parameters ng mission,” she said.
She said President Aquino is keen to know the truth behind the shootout that left three policemen, three military personnel and other civilians killed. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)