Police chief: Quezon ‘rubout’ has no Palace blessing-A A +A
Thursday, January 24, 2013
MANILA -- Sacked Southern Luzon police director James Melad backtracked Thursday from his previous statement that Malacañang gave its approval for them to proceed with the implementation of case operation (coplan) Armado that resulted in the checkpoint shooting in Atimonan, Quezon.
Coplan Armado is a classified intelligence plan involving private armed groups, illegal drugs, gun-for-hire operations, jueteng and other illegal activities in line with the Philippine National Police's "Coplan Kamagong."
In his four-page counter-affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday, Chief Superintendent Melad said the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) -- from which Superintendent Hansel Marantan, ground commander in the Atimonan incident, supposedly sought funding for the coplan -- had not approved of the January 6 operation.
Melad confirmed that PAOCC released to Marantan's group P100,000 but only to be used for intelligence gathering to support the case build-up against suspected jueteng operator Vic Siman.
Siman was the supposed target of the security forces led by Marantan when they held them at a checkpoint, resulting in the supposed shootout and the eventual deaths of Siman and his 12 companions onboard their two-vehicle convoy.
In his previous interview at the NBI, Melad made no mention of any funding from the PAOCC with regard the case build-up. It was only Marantan and PAOCC executive director Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta who discussed the P100,000 for intelligence gathering of Marantan's group.
According to Melad, he was at Camp Crame attending the "Games of the Generals" at the time of the incident when he received a text message from Marantan stating that he received an intelligence report from a reliable source regarding "several armed men."
"Believing that this was part of the intelligence build-up and validation of targets in coplan, I replied, 'Okey lang. Coordinate with the local PNP,'" he said, adding that all along, he thought that Marantan's text message was just to inform him that they had an update in their intelligence gathering.
Melad added that he approved coplan Armado because it was his duty to oversee the security situation of the region and ensure the neutralization of criminal syndicates and other organized crime groups operating within his area of responsibility.
Upon evaluation of the risks, targets, informants and intelligence network of coplan Armado, Melad said he was personally convinced that it could be a major accomplishment of the PNP in the region.
Thus, Melad said he approved the coplan, which was later brought by Marantan to the PAOCC for funding purposes.
Meanwhile, an NBI report from the office of deputy director for technical services lawyer Ricson Chiong showed that seven of the 13 victims who underwent re-autopsy turned positive for gun powder, including Siman.
However, the report stated that the results of the paraffin test are not conclusive.
The NBI is still vetting whether military witness Rolando Vico is a credible witness considering his contrary statement to the ones executed by three other witnesses supporting the theory that the law enforcers manning the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon did not engage in a shootout with the passengers of the two-vehicle convoy of Siman.
NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas said the bureau cannot yet make an assessment on whether Vico's statement could overturn those of the other witnesses.
Vico, a caretaker at a prawn hatchery, claimed that he was near the site of the bloody encounter on January 6 when he heard the exchange of fire between law enforcers and Siman’s group.
"We cannot yet put conclusion kasi we need to evaluate his statements as against other witnesses' to see if there are inconsistencies para ma-evaluate din kung totoo ba or credible ba ang particular witness," he said.
Rojas also said that the bureau will not give a deadline as to when it will submit its report to President Benigno Aquino III, who had tasked the NBI as the sole agency that will conduct a probe into the Atimonan incident.
He said the NBI is still continuing to receive evidence such as bullet slugs from the crime scene, the clothes of the victims, as well as the vehicles used in the supposed "shootout."
"I do not want to give a deadline so that our report will be as complete as possible. Rest assured, kami mismo gusto na namin matapos ito, but ayaw namin sabihin na tapos na for the sake na masabing tapos na," he added. (JCV/Sunnex)