LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — A senior police official, two other policemen, a soldier and an environmental group officer were among the 13 persons who were killed Sunday in Atimonan, Quezon, in what the Quezon police said was a shootout between law enforcers and suspected members of a crime syndicate operating in the Southern Tagalog region.
The list of fatalities released Monday by the Quezon police, included the name of Superintendent Alfredo Perez Consemino, acting group director of the Regional Headquarters Support Group (RHSG) of the Mimaropa, the region that comprises the provinces of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.
The two policemen killed in the shootout – Police Officer 1 Jeffrey Tarinay Valdez and Senior Police Officer 1 Gruet Alinea Mantuano – were both subordinates of Consemino under the RHSG-Mimaropa, the list showed.
The death of Consemino and his two men startled the Mimaropa regional police director, Chief Supt. Melito Mabilin who, in a phone interview on Monday, announced he ordered a separate probe to determine why the three policemen from his region were involved in a gunfight in Quezon province.
Consemino, while based at the RHSG-Mimaropa headquarters Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro, was listed by the Quezon police as a resident of Purok 3 Ems Barrio, Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba City.
Valdez was listed as being from Sitio Ilocandia Mapaya III, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro; while Mantuano, who was assigned at the Naujan police station in Oriental Mindoro while under the RHSG, was from Mabini Street, Barangay Ilaya, Calapan City.
Consemino and Valdez were on holiday leave and were not expected to report from the New Year’s break until Monday, according to Mabilin.
Mantuano, however, was supposed to be on his duty in Naujan on Sunday when the shooting happened in Atimonan, he said.
The slain soldier, identified as SSgt. Armando Aranda Lescano, has no listed place of assignment in the report. He was said to be a resident of 407 Lt. Ano Street, FAB, Lipa City.
Capt. Neminardo Perez, commander of the 554th Air Force Squadron at the Fernando Air Base in this city, however, confirmed on Monday that Lescano was “part of my staff” but he refused to elaborate.
He said he sent some PAF personnel to the house of Lescano at around 6:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Monday but none of Lescano’s family members was around as they all reportedly went to Quezon to to retrieve his remains.
The most prominent personality among the civilian casualties was identified as Tirso Pada Lontok Jr., of Barangay (village) Sta. Lucia, Dolores, Quezon, who was once an executive assistant of Sariaya’s former mayor, Connie Doromal.
Lontok was known here in Quezon as one of the officials of the Luntiang Alyansa sa Bundok Banahaw (Labb), an environmentalist group advocating for the protection and rehabilitation of Mount Banahaw.
The other casualties were identified by the Quezon police as Victorino Siman Atienza Jr., Gerry Ancero Siman, Leonardo Catapang Marasigan and Conrado Redresca Decillo, all of Calamba City; Victor Garcia Gonzales, of Pulong Balon, Candaba, Pampanga; Maximo Manalastas Pelayo, of Crossing, Tigaon, Camarines Sur; Jimbeam Dyico Justiniani, of Quezon City; and Paul Acedillo Quiohilag, of 608 Mabini, Biñan, Laguna.
Most of the fatalities were identified through the identification cards recovered from the scene while Gerry Siman was identified through a bank ATM card.
Mabilin said he ordered a check on the background of Consemino and found nothing that could link him to criminal activities.
“We’ve checked all his records, even from our counter-intelligence unit, but there was no any derogatory report found against Consemino. Since I assumed, he has not been involved in any criminal activity. I also knew the guy,” said Mabilin, who assumed the Mimaropa PNP post in October 2012.
Mabilin also stressed his office has not yet received the official police report from the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) PNP.
“As part of our course of action, I sent our men to Quezon to find out why the three were together and what were they doing in Quezon,” Mabilin said.
Chief Supt James Melad, Calabarzon’s police director, said by phone on Monday that they were still investigating any involvement of the group in an illegal activity.
“What we know so far is that our men (with the Army) were conducting a checkpoint and instead of slowing down (for inspection) they opened fire,”
prompting government forces to retaliate, Melad said.
Melad said the police recovered 14 firearms, including an M16 rifle, an M14 US rifle, a 9mm pistol, and eleven .45 caliber guns.
The fatalities were initially identified by the military as residents of Bicol, a claim that angered Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.
Salceda said on Monday he would ask the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) to be more ethnicity-sensitive since it was clear from the report that the “abusive tagging” and “premature labeling” were not the fault of Philippine Daily Inquirer but was made by the military source.
“Nanggaling lang sa Timog Quezon –Bicolano agad (Since they came from southern Quezon they were immediately labeled as Bicolanos,” lamented Salceda. With reports from Marrah Lesaba and Mar Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon