The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) did not approve a proposed police operation against alleged “jueteng” operator Victor “Vic” Siman because it was a potentially bloody business, the Inquirer learned on Saturday.
But deciding it was its job to get Siman even without the PAOCC’s approval, the proponent—the intelligence unit of the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) police—went ahead and got the alleged jueteng lord, but with a lot of collateral damage, prompting President Benigno Aquino III to order an investigation.
“Is it really within their mandate, or the regular assignment of that intelligence unit, to do that kind of mission?” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima asked on Saturday.
De Lima raised the question after one of the proponents, Supt. Glenn Dumlao, commander of the Calabarzon Public Safety Battalion, said on Friday that the regional police went ahead with the mission even without PAOCC approval on the presumption of regularity because it was their job to go after organized crime groups.
With the deaths of 13 men, including Siman, in an alleged shootout between government security forces and alleged guns for hire in Atimonan town in Quezon province a week ago, the decision of the PAOCC executive director, Chief Supt. Reginald Villasanta, to disapprove the proposal, “Coplan Armado,” appears to have been right.
A well-placed source told the Inquirer that the deaths in Calamba City on Nov. 12 of six alleged members of a gun-for-hire group tagged by the Calabarzon regional police as having links to Siman and the subsequent death threats received by Supt. Hansel Marantan, chief of intelligence of the Calabarzon police, allegedly from Siman’s group were the reasons why the PAOCC rejected the coplan (case operational plan).
“Given these incidents, if you were the PAOCC, directly under the Office of the President, would you approve a coplan like ‘Armado?’” the Inquirer source said.
Marantan was the only one injured among the 50 policemen and Army special forces troops who allegedly fought Siman’s group in a 20-minute gun battle at a checkpoint along a sparsely populated stretch of Maharlika Highway in Atimonan.
He was supposedly hit in the hands and foot, light injuries that failed to save him from suspicion and suspension.
But Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, on Saturday cautioned against conclusions that Marantan’s injuries are self-inflicted.
Lacson called on the public to wait for the results of the investigation being carried out by the National Bureau of Investigation.
“At this point, everything is speculative. All these are conjecture,” Lacson said. “Let’s just wait for the investigation to be finished.”
“That should be the case,” said De Lima, who, like Lacson, attended the 20th anniversary celebration of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order in Intramuros, Manila. “We’re not judging anyone, because it’s still premature,” she added.
But with the information that it was the intelligence unit of the Calabarzon police that carried out the operation against Siman, De Lima asked whether intelligence units normally undertake such operations.
“Isn’t an intelligence unit supposed to gather information only, and there is a need to transfer—if it has already obtained validated facts through intelligence-gathering—to an appropriate unit that will conduct a field operation, such as that one?” De Lima said.
De Lima said Marantan and Dumlao should cooperate with the NBI in the investigation.
“I told the NBI to talk to all of them,” De Lima said. “The NBI has a list of those involved in the operation.”
The Inquirer source, an intelligence officer with knowledge of the case investigation, asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to reporters about the alleged shootout.
The PAOCC is under the direct supervision of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
The commission’s mandate includes providing funding for the intelligence, technical, logistical and legal needs of legitimate police operations against organized crime and terrorism.
The PAOCC secretariat recommended approval of “Armado,” which was signed by Marantan, as case officer; Dumlao, as case supervisor; and Chief Supt. James Melad, chief of the Calabarzon police, as case director.
But it was Villasanta who had the final say on funding. Even so, his decision needed to be vetted by the PAOCC board.
While “Coplan Armado” was dated Oct. 24, 2012, Villasanta said it reached his desk only in mid-November.
The Inquirer source pointed out “pieces of the puzzle.”
“Look, Villasanta said he received the coplan in mid-November. By then, six men were already dead. A police officer (Marantan) was already receiving death threats from Siman’s group. Villasanta would not place the [executive secretary] and the President anywhere near this police operation,” the source said, referring to Ochoa and President Aquino.
“Coplan Armado,” in fact, traced a trail of blood that led to Siman and his alleged jueteng associates because of their alleged link to a gun-for-hire group.
It said that in April 2012, one Engelbert Aquino was killed allegedly by hit men hired by Siman and a jueteng partner after Aquino refused to join their numbers racket in Calamba City.
The same gun-for-hire group linked to Siman allegedly tried to kill Senior Insp. Nestor Sardina, chief of police of Sta. Maria town in Laguna in May 2012.
In October 2012, the gun-for-hire group ambushed and killed Insp. Romeo Criste, an operations officer at the Cabuyao City police, with the “disruption” of the jueteng operations of Siman and his partners as motive.
Then came the Nov. 12 incident. All six alleged members of Siman’s gun-for-hire group who shot it out with policemen in Barangay Licheria in Calamba City were killed.
The Inquirer source said that of the six men, only two were real hit men.
“The four others were mere bookies,” he said.
The deaths of the six men supposedly angered Siman, who pointed to Marantan as the one behind the police operation, the source said.
“Marantan was a target of Siman’s group after the Nov. 12 incident. He (Marantan) had begun receiving death threats via text messages,” the source said.
The source said the carnage in Atimonan could have been avoided had Marantan not shown himself to Siman at the checkpoint.
Among those killed with Siman were three policemen, including a senior police officer who was 12 years ahead of Marantan in the Philippine National Police Academy, Supt. Alfredo Consemino, and two Air Force soldiers.
The Inquirer learned that the Calabarzon police had a parallel coplan to “Armado” called “Coplan Bayani.”
“Bayani” zeroed in on police officers allegedly protecting Siman and his group.
The coplan also listed down 15 men who were allegedly the “civilian components” of Siman’s armed group. The list included environmentalist Tirso Lontok Jr., Siman’s bodyguards Leonardo Marasigan and Maximo Pelayo, and real-estate broker Paul Quiohilag, all of whom where killed in the alleged shootout in Atimonan.
Not license to kill
Inquirer sources from the intelligence community said that coplans are standard documents for building up cases against terrorists and notorious criminals.
“Coplans contain lists of targets to be arrested. It is under law enforcement, which means that the main objective is to arrest the targets and as such, the operations should follow the rules of engagement,” one source said.
The first Inquirer source added: “A coplan is not a James Bond movie. It does not have a license to kill. If the target was killed, it should be in a justifiable manner.”
First posted 12:01 am | Sunday, January 13th, 2013