CALAMBA CITY—“We were raised properly by our parents. If he was the person they said he was, how come people came to him for help? How come politicians knew him?” said Ma. Teresa, the elder sister of Victor Rimas Siman.
She said there was no shred of truth to reports that her 40-year-old brother was involved in “jueteng,” an illegal numbers racket, or a leader of a gun-for-hire syndicate.
Earlier reports by the Quezon police erroneously identified Siman as Victorino “Tonet” Siman Atienza Jr., his cousin. Both were among the 13 people killed by lawmen at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, on Sunday.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer interviewed Ma. Teresa at Siman’s wake in his two-story home, one of the posh houses in the upland village of Maunong, Calamba City. Flowers from city councilors and politicians were displayed.
To his family and neighbors, Victor Rimas Siman, or “Vic Siman,” was a good man who helped everyone who came to him for help.
“My brother was a very kind and generous man. He helped so many people—children with medical needs, alms for those who lost loved ones and so many others,” Ma. Teresa said.
Across the place is the house of his grandmother where the wake of Atienza and another cousin, Gerry Ancero Siman, who also died in the same incident, was being held. Atienza, 35, and Gerry Siman, 38, worked as bodyguards for their “Kuya Vic,” according to relatives.
Leonardo Catapang Marasigan, a distant relative and another bodyguard of Siman, was also killed in the gunfight, as well as Siman’s driver, Conrado Redreska Decillo. Their remains were brought to their homes, also in Maunong.
The Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) police initially tagged the slain men as members of a gun-for-hire group, but with Siman’s body among the dead, reports of a turf war between rival gambling operators emerged.
Sources from the police, gambling players and even from Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng said Siman ran bookies in Laguna and in nearby provinces.
“That’s not true,” Ma. Teresa said. She said her brother, a criminology graduate, made his fortune from his security agency and by operating the government-sanctioned Small Town Lottery (STL).
“The guns recovered from the scene were all licensed,” she added.
Ramon Preza, who owns Ramloid Gaming Corp. that holds the franchise to operate the STL in Laguna, denied that Siman was involved with his company.
“Victor Siman never worked for me, ever. I’ve never seen his face before. You can check the list of employees we submit to the PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) and you’ll never find a single Siman there,” said Preza, who is a resident of Tiaong, Quezon.
Long line of mourners
Residents interviewed by the Inquirer described Vic Siman as “helpful” and well-loved by neighbors. A long line of mourners came on the first night of his wake at his house on Tuesday.
The Simans are apparently a family of local politicians. Vic Siman’s brother, Christopher, is the village chief of Maunong. Two other relatives—a certain Michael and Marco—are also village officials, records from the barangay (village) council showed.
“Would the Simans win in barangay elections if they were into illegal activities?” said Danilo Silva, chairman of the adjacent Barangay La Mesa.
Vic Siman, a father of two, was married to Gina Mamacud Siman, to whom the vehicles recovered from the crime scene were registered. The wife refused to grant an interview.
But like the families of the other slain men, the Simans cried for justice in what they believed was a rubout.
“What they did to my brother was inhuman. Very brutal. My brother’s back was torn apart,” said Ma. Teresa of her brother’s bullet-riddled body.
Shot between the eyes
Gerry’s sister, who requested anonymity because she is an employee at the city government, said her brother was shot between the eyes, while Atienza was shot in the head.
The Simans believed the Atimonan victims were shot at close range.
“Decillo’s face was shattered. His family even refused to accept his remains at first because they could not recognize him,” a relative said.
Decillo, a single parent, left behind eight children. “His children came here to tell us they had nothing to eat,” said another Siman relative.
Another fatality, Maximo Manalastas Pelayo, 37, of Tigaon, Camarines Sur, was a security guard, according to his mother-in-law.
Elena Asayen Parsa, 56, mother of Pelayo’s wife Rosalie, told the Inquirer that her son-in-law was a native of Pampanga.
Parsa said Rosalie met Pelayo in Karuhatan, Valenzuela, more than 10 years ago when her daughter was working there. Pelayo had been employed as a security guard in an establishment in the town.
“He came home only once a month but would not stay long. I was even wondering why he went back to Manila on the 29th of December when he went home on the 26th. He celebrated his birthday here on Dec. 27,” she said.
Parsa, who did not know her son-in-law’s employer, recalled that Pelayo and Rosalie had been living in San Rafael for over a decade, along with their four children, aged 13, 10, 9 and 1. The family left for Pampanga where Pelayo’s remains were brought from Quezon.
When asked if Pelayo was involved with the military, Parsa said she was told that he had joined the Army but went on “Awol” (absence without leave) because he found it hard to be away from his children. She, however, could not recall when he joined the military and when he left the service.
Michael, a neighbor, who asked not to give his surname, described Pelayo as well-built, about 5-foot-8-inches tall and with fair complexion, and good physique and looks.
He said Pelayo came home for short visits once a month but would not just stay in his house that could be reached through a muddy road from the highway.
During the few times that they shared a drink, Michael said he had learned that Pelayo was somewhat connected with the military.
Police investigators had recovered from Pelayo’s body an identification card that bore his name and supposedly issued by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp). However, Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, Isafp chief, said the ID was fake and declared that Pelayo and Leonardo Catapang, another fatality that yielded an Isafp ID, were “impostors.”
Air Force man
In Lipa City, the family of still another fatality, Air Force 1st Lt. Jimbeam Justiniani, said they could not believe that he was a member of a gun-for-hire gang and was involved in jueteng.
“If he were involved in a syndicate, he wouldn’t have been living in a townhouse but in that house (pointing to a big house opposite Justiniani’s),” said a relative, who refused to be identified for security reasons.
A neighbor said Justiniani lived simply and drove around in an old car. “If he were a member of a syndicate, he should have been the owner of a new car,” he said.
Justiniani, 31, who lived at St. Vincent Subdivision in Lipa, was assigned to the Air Education and Training Command based at the 554th Air Police Squadron in Fernando Airbase, also in the city.
He was married to a part-time instructor at a city school, with whom he had two daughters, aged 10 and 4. He was killed on the same day his youngest daughter was celebrating her birthday, according to a neighbor.
Members of the immediate family of Justiniani declined to be interviewed.
The soldier’s remains were laid at the chapel of the air base, but reporters were not allowed inside the camp.
Capt. Edmund Elona, acting public information officer of the base, declined to answer text messages and phone calls.
The sister of Paul Acedillo Quiohilag, another fatality from Biñan City in Laguna, said he was not a criminal and had held managerial positions in various insurance and real estate companies.
Rodita Quiohilag appeared with other relatives at the National Bureau of Investigation main office in Manila yesterday to file complaints against those involved in the Atimonan killings.
“He was a civilian and simple man, an insurance and real estate broker,” Rodita said. She said Quiohilag was a former manager of Britanny and an insurance broker for Fortune Life and Filinvest.
“On the day he left, he brought with him insurance proposals prepared by his secretary. He said he would be attending a meeting,” his sister said.
The other fatalities were:
Tirso Pada Lontok Jr., of Barangay Sta. Lucia in Dolores, Quezon, was an environmentalist and founding member of Kapatiran at Alyansang Alay para sa Kaunlaran ng Bayan–Quezon (Kaakbay-Quezon). He allegedly served as the link between Vic Siman’s jueteng operation in Laguna and Batangas and a member of an influential clan in Quezon, according to a source from the underground gambling business in Calabarzon. With a report from Nancy Carvajal in Manila