Police officer in Atimonan clash no stranger to shootouts
Supt. Hansel Marantan, who led the government security force that engaged a group of alleged criminals in a bloody clash in Atimonan, Quezon, on Sunday had been involved in three widely publicized, if not controversial, gun battles previously.
“Marantan is not new in this kind of daring and deadly police operation. He is known to be a good police operative,” said a senior police official who had worked with him.
“But he was also known as an ‘operator.’ He had links with ‘shady characters’ and personalities involved in illegal gambling and other unlawful activities in Calabarzon,” the source added.
In the gun battle in Quezon, three active police officers—among them Supt. Alfredo Consemino—were killed along with 10 other supposed members of a private armed group.
Marantan, 41, sustained three bullet wounds on his legs and left arm in the shootout.
Inquirer sources in the Philippine National Police said the fire fight was triggered by a turf war between warring syndicates involved in “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game.
But Marantan on Tuesday dismissed allegations by fellow officers interviewed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer that he and a sibling were involved in illegal gambling. “Maybe they are involved, not I or my sibling.”
He did not elaborate on the sibling and the Inquirer sources likewise declined to say whether the sibling is male or female.
“I don’t have any sibling who operates jueteng or STL,” Marantan told the Inquirer in a brief phone interview from his hospital bed in Manila. He referred to the state-run Small Town Lottery launched by the government to counter jueteng.
He said the intelligence report on the armed group and the operation was approved by Chief Supt. James Melad, Calabarzon’s police director. But Melad in a phone interview Tuesday said he knew little about the operation.
“Marantan texted me on Sunday morning informing me that they were conducting surveillance operations on a certain group that carried firearms. My instruction for him was to coordinate with the Quezon police and the station commanders. As to how they coordinated, it’s best you ask the Quezon police director,” Melad said.
Melad said he did not know how solid Marantan’s intelligence information was. “But we have been looking into this for a while. Loose firearms have been the focus of our attention, specially with an election coming up,” he said.
A top police official in Calabarzon, who refused to be named, said that Sunday’s operation was not coordinated with the regional intelligence division.
Benefit of the doubt
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, however, defended Marantan. The chairman of the Senate national defense committee who is a former PNP chief said Marantan had been wounded in action.
“Instead of demonizing him, he should at least be given the benefit of the doubt, if we can’t commend his efforts,” Lacson said.
The senator said that the group Marantan was up against had been providing “services” to “big-name and small-time” politicians and that these included the assassination of their opponents.
“The fight against crime groups and criminal gangs can sometimes be very frustrating, not to mention highly risky, physically and career-wise. Believe me, I know whereof I speak,” the senator said.
Valle Verde gang
In December 2005, Marantan made the headlines when he and his colleagues in the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) clashed with members of the Valle Verde car theft gang.
Three alleged members of the syndicate—Anton Cu-Unjieng, Francis Xavier Manzano and Brian Anthony Dulay—were killed in the shootout, which the police said was a result of a legitimate operation.
But a crew of UNTV caught the alleged gun battle on video. The footage showed the policemen shooting at the supposed car thieves as they lay motionless inside the car.
Relatives of the victims, who all belonged to wealthy families, later claimed that the three men were killed by police.
Marantan, then a police senior inspector, and his men were charged with murder. But the case against them was downgraded to homicide and is now pending in the Supreme Court after the victims’ relatives sought a reconsideration.
Despite the pending case, Marantan was promoted twice. He became a police superintendent (the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the military) in 2009.
Marantan also was involved in the December 2009 shootout with suspected robbers in Parañaque City which led to the death of 16 people, including seaman Alfonso de Vera and his 7-year-old daughter.
At that time, he was assigned with the HPG Task Force Limbas, which conducted the operation against the dreaded Alvin Flores robbery group.
Fire fight with kidnappers
Marantan, a graduate of Philippine National Police Academy Class 1998, was among the several PNP personnel investigated for the incident, but he was not charged in connection with the deaths of the father and daughter.
In October 2010, Marantan was again in the news when he and his subordinates in the 415th Provincial Police Mobile Group killed eight purported members of a kidnapping syndicate in a gun battle.
Like the fire fight in Atimonan, the clash also occurred in a checkpoint manned by Marantan’s men and Army soldiers.
A check by the Inquirer with the PNP Internal Affairs Service and the National Police Commission showed that Marantan did not have any pending administrative case.
An intelligence police officer said one of those slain in the Atimonan fire fight, Victorino “Vic Siman” Atienza Jr., an alleged illegal gambling kingpin in Laguna, was “a former friend” of Marantan.
The official said Atienza had a misunderstanding with Marantan, which eventually prompted Atienza to file a case against Marantan in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Marantan had a personal grudge against Vic Siman. The operation in Atimonan was a personal thing for him,” the police official said. With a report from Cathy Yamsuan