Kin of ‘Atimonan 13’: Signs show rubout
The 47-year-old widow of Supt. Alfredo Consemino pointed at signs indicating that a shootout did not take place and that her husband and his group were marked for the kill.
“If they did fight back, there should have been an exchange of fire. How come none of those from the other side died? If it was an encounter, we expect casualties on both sides,” said the widow, who refused to give her name for security reasons.
According to the family, Consemino suffered bullet wounds in the head, neck and hip. “His jaw was smashed (by the bullets),” his widow said, although the family was still waiting for police autopsy results.
“Just look at the vehicles’ windshield! Also, how come the only one shot from the other side was hit in the leg, while those who died were hit in the head?” said Consemino’s third son, who also asked not to be named.
The widow denied her husband’s involvement in illegal activities. They rarely talked about his work, she said, “because every time he’s home, his attention was focused on his family. All he did at home was to cook and feed us.”
A high-ranking but low-key police officer, a green warrior, a veteran soldier, a single father-policeman and a young colleague who were bound together by the Atimonan shooting had another thing in common: They had no criminal past.
So said the families and friends of seven of the 13 people killed in the Quezon town, who denied that the dead were members of a gun-for-hire gang who shot it out with the police and the military on Sunday.
On Tuesday, they, aside from Consemino’s live-in partner, demanded an impartial investigation, believing that their loved ones were summarily killed.
The widow also said she knew Victorino “Vic Siman” Atienza Jr., another fatality, as her husband’s business partner in a security agency. She said she never met Atienza who, according to police sources, was known as an operator of illegal bookies.
“If he (Consemino) was into illegal (gambling), we should have been rich now. But we are not. We couldn’t afford throwing extravagant parties like other officials. We were celebrating my husband’s birthdays with pansit (noodles) and cake, sometimes none so we just go to church,” the widow said.
The Conseminos are only renting an apartment here and once even borrowed money to pay for a month’s stay, one of their friends said.
Consemino was careful about how people would think of him, his widow said. “He would never flash his badge for a free ride on the bus or ask for discounts when we were at the market.”
“I knew my husband. He would not do anything that would tarnish his name and image before his children,” she said.
Environmentalists in Quezon also refuse to believe that another fatality, Tirso Lontok Jr., was a member of a big-time gun-for-hire syndicate and operator of illegal gambling.
“He is a great loss to the cause of environment protection in Quezon. He will risk his life to protect Mother Earth. That’s how dedicated he was as nature lover and protector,” said Jay Lim, spokesperson of Kapatiran at Alyansang Alay para sa Kaunlaran ng Bayan–Quezon (Kaakbay-Quezon).
Kaakbay-Quezon is the biggest coalition of militant nongovernment groups composed of farmers, workers, religious, students and environmentalists. It has also been at the forefront of the struggle of coconut farmers for the return of the coconut levy fund and has demanded a stop to illegal quarry operations in Sariaya town and the protection of civilians caught in the conflict between communist rebels and government forces.
Lim said Lontok, along with activist priest Raul “Father Puti” Enriquez, organized Kaakbay in the early 1990s to lead the opposition against the construction of the South Luzon toll way extension project on the slope of Mt. Banahaw.
On Monday night, environmentalists led by Father Enriquez conducted a vigil at the Lontoks’ residence in Barangay Sta. Lucia in Dolores to pay tribute to their fallen comrade. Lontok is survived by his wife, Marife, and three children.
The family of SSgt. Armando Lescano was also angry that the 40-year-old soldier was linked to a crime syndicate. His wife, Felicitas, 43, was crying when the Philippine Daily Inquirer met her.
“We demand justice for my father. He was innocent,” said his daughter, Eloisa. “If my father was a member of a gun-for-hire group, we would have been living luxuriously.”
Eloisa, 22, said the family did not own any vehicle, not even a bike. Her father and the rest of the family commute by tricycle, she said.
They live in a government housing facility for soldiers inside Fernando Air Base in Lipa City in Batangas and they do not even know where to go after her father is buried on Friday, she said.
She said she did not know much about her father’s work except that she was told that he was with the group in Atimonan to provide “security.”
Eloisa decried how her father was killed, revealing that his face was hardly recognizable as he was peppered with bullets from head to foot.
Lescano had been in the military service for 25 years and had received various merit awards, she said. He was assigned to La Union and Cavite before he was transferred to the 554th Air Police Squadron, Fernando Air Base, in 2012.
His remains were brought to his parents’ house in Barangay (village) Santol, Mataas na Kahoy town in Batangas and will be buried in the public cemetery on Friday.
In Calapan City, the family of SPO1 Gruet Alinea Mantuano was still in shock over his death. He was to celebrate his 33rd birthday on Jan. 19.
Ailyn Cueto, a sister, said her grief-stricken parents—Vivian, 60, and Virgilio, 58—were inconsolable.
The family refused to believe that her brother was involved in illegal activities and would want authorities to make the perpetrators accountable for his death, she said.
Mantuano was a single parent who took care of his three children, aged 10, 6 and 3, after his marriage was annulled. Cueto said her brother would rather spend the time with his children at home whenever he was not on duty.
Mantuano finished a degree in Computer Science at Divine Word College of Calapan before he pursued his interest in police work. “As a policeman, he had been working hard to be promoted for his children to complete their education,” Cueto said.
The family, their relatives and friends set up a tent in front of their house in Barangay Ilaya where the policeman’s remains, which arrived in the city shortly before noon Tuesday, was laid.
In San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, the sister of another slain policeman, PO1 Jeffrey Tarinay Valdez, said in a phone interview that her brother had not been linked to any criminal activity. Valdez’s remains arrived in his hometown on Tuesday.
Erna Joy Valdez declined to talk more about her brother, except to say that he had a 5-month-old child.
In Pampanga, the mother and wife of Maximo Manalastas Pelayo, another fatality, demanded justice as they decried reports by authorities that he was involved in criminal activities, including the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”
“My son was good. He didn’t cause me pain. They have no right to call him a gun-for-hire, criminal or a jueteng worker,” Pelayo’s mother, Agrifina, told the Inquirer in the family home in Candaba town.
Pelayo, 36, was eighth in a brood of 12. “He was the first of my children to die. Why did they have to kill him?” Agrifina said.
For two days, the woman had been waiting for her son’s remains in Barangay Mangumbali, a farming village. Her son, she said, had been living in Camarines Sur and went home on important occasions.
Agrifina said she knew that her son was involved in “buy and sell” deals.
Pelayo’s wife, Rosaly, said she last saw her husband on Dec. 29, 2012 when he left Camarines Sur for Metro Manila. She said he worked as a driver for somebody she did not know.
“I was surprised that he was with that group,” she said, adding one of their friends went to see her to tell her about the supposed encounter in Quezon.
Rosaly cried for fear of not being able to raise their four children and three others by his first wife. “I need help to bring them up and give them an education. I don’t have any job,” she said.
Agrifina planned to bury her son in a cemetery in Barangay Salapungan, also in Candaba. Reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Maricar Cinco, Madonna Virola and Marrah Lesaba, Inquirer Southern Luzon; and Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon