CALAMBA, Laguna—The gun battle in Atimonan town, Quezon province, that left 13 people dead on Sunday was the culmination of a three-month police operation approved by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
But Ochoa denied there was any mission order from the commission authorizing the police-military operation in Atimonan.
The operation, code-named “Coplan Armado,” had only one target: Victor “Vic” Siman, operator of the numbers racket “jueteng” disguised as government-sanctioned Small Town Lottery (STL) in Laguna and Batangas provinces in southern Luzon.
A ranking PAOCC official confirmed that the intelligence division of the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) police informed the commission about the surveillance on Siman.
The PAOCC official said Supt. Hansel Marantan submitted to the commission a case operation plan (coplan) detailing the supposed involvement of the Siman group in gun-for-hire operations in Calabarzon.
Marantan was the leader of the police team at the joint police-military checkpoint where the alleged shootout happened.
Police claimed Marantan, deputy chief of the Calabarzon police intelligence group, was hit in the hands and foot during the exchange of gunfire with Siman’s group.
PNP Director General Alan Purisima on Wednesday suspended Marantan and the rest of his team for violations of checkpoint rules, including not being in uniform at the time of the alleged clash with Siman’s group.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer source in the Philippine National Police described the 12 others killed in the alleged shootout between security forces and Siman’s group as “collateral damage.”
But that does not clear the three policemen and three soldiers killed along with Siman and the others of involvement in jueteng, as at least one of them was well known to be involved in the numbers racket, other Inquirer sources in the PNP said.
On bishop’s list
Inquirer sources from the anti-illegal gambling movement Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng led by retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz on Wednesday said one of the three slain policemen, Supt. Alfredo Consemino, and Siman appeared in their records of people in southern Luzon involved in jueteng.
A source on Thursday showed the Inquirer a copy of “Coplan Armado” on condition that the source’s identity and organization be withheld.
The operational plan detailed the intelligence report gathered against Siman, who was from this city and identified as one of two leaders of a syndicate involved in illegal gambling, drugs and gunrunning.
The other leader of the syndicate is an elected municipal official in Batangas province. The source asked that the official’s name also be withheld due to the sensitivity of the matter.
“Vic Siman was involved in an extensive illegal drug trade flourishing in Manila and in southern Luzon provinces,” the operational plan said.
Among the 13 men killed on Sunday, only Siman was on the police target list.
“The others were collateral damage,” the source said.
For instance, the families of Paul Quiohilag claimed that he was a real estate and insurance broker doing business with Consemino.
Relatives of Consemino denied the slain police officer was involved in jueteng. They said he was only working with Siman on a contract for a security agency.
Friends of Tirso Lontok Jr., also killed along with Siman’s group, said he was an environmentalist.
The source acknowledged that some of the 13 men could be traveling with Siman on legitimate business, but said: “Would you have time to ask who’s the environmentalist and who’s in the real estate business when the shooting is already going on? That’s foolish.”
“Coplan Armado” was the operational plan against organized crime groups at the regional level in Calabarzon, based on the PNP’s “Coplan Kamagong” at the national level.
The coplan was signed by Marantan, in his capacity as head of the regional Anti-Organized Crime Task Force; Supt. Glenn Dumlao, who headed the Special Concerns Task Group; and regional police director Chief Supt. James Melad.
In an interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday, Marantan said the intelligence report and the operational plan had the approval of his superiors in the Calabarzon police.
“It was signed by me, Melad and Dumlao,” Marantan said.
Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon, the suspended Quezon police chief, said he never saw the alleged report and operational plan.
De Leon insisted that he had nothing to do with the police-military operation in Atimonan because he was still on vacation when it happened.
“As a matter of fact, I was in Virra Mall in Manila when the incident happened,” he said.
De Leon said he was informed about the alleged shootout by phone, so he left his family in Manila and returned to Quezon.
He said he reported the alleged shootout to Melad, who was participating in a shooting competition at the time.
Authorized in October
The coplan, signed on Oct. 24, 2012, was submitted to the PAOCC, the source said. PAOCC is under the Office of the President.
“This only shows that the operation [in Atimonan, Quezon] was legitimate,” the source said.
Asked about Dumlao’s participation in the operation against Siman, the source said Dumlao was not at the scene in Atimonan. Dumlao was one of the policemen accused in the 2000 murders of Salvador Dacer and the public relations agent’s driver Emmanuel Corbito.
The coplan’s objective is to “neutralize [this] group by means of police operations and massive intelligence gathering and put them [the targets] behind bars.”
The coplan listed 15 “targets,” six of them from Batangas and the rest from Laguna province. Among the targets were a government official and a relative of a ranking police officer.
On the list, the name of Siman, found at the top, and that of Nestor “Jr Castillo” Pera Banog from Tipaz, San Juan, Batangas, were already crossed out.
Banog and five other men were killed in a police operation, also led by Marantan, in Barangay (village) Lecheria in Calamba City on Nov. 12, 2012. The police reported that it was a shootout.
“In reality, you can’t act goody goody or you will end up six feet in the ground,” the source said, when asked if the Quezon encounter was a rubout as claimed by the families of those killed.
The source said the agents were “monitoring the movement” of Siman’s group as it traveled to Bicol as early as Sunday morning. The alleged shootout happened in the afternoon.
The source maintained that the first shot that hit Marantan was fired by Siman’s group. With reports from Marlon Ramos and Nancy Carvajal in Manila; and Delfin T. Mallari, Inquirer Southern Luzon