Police colonel in ‘Atimonan 13’ buried with full military honors
SAN PABLO CITY—Light rains showered the funeral of Supt. Alfredo Consemino, one of the 13 men killed in a gun battle in Atimonan town, Quezon province, last week as he was buried with full military honors on Saturday at the San Pablo Memorial Park here.
At the funeral Mass, the family remained silent about the ongoing investigation, although they all came in white shirts printed with the words: “Justice for Supt. Consemino.”
“We would like to thank everyone who helped us and offered their prayers,” said Consemino’s widow Susan, 47.
Close to a thousand attended the funeral, including 20 members of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Class ’86, said Senior Supt. Rolando Opeña, a batchmate of Consemino.
“We are saddened by the loss of another classmate and in such a tragic way,” Opeña said.
Police officers from the Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), where Consemino was the acting group director of the Regional Headquarters Support Group, gave him a gun salute and handed the interment flag to his widow.
“There were many more who wanted to join the funeral rites but he had to be buried before 12 noon based on the PNP tradition,” Opeña said.
“It was just raining intermittently in the morning. But as soon as his body was laid on the ground, strong rains poured,” Consemino’s widow said.
In Dolores, Quezon, a noontime protest march that gathered mourners stretching to two-kilometers long brought environmentalist Tirso Lontok Jr., who was also killed in the gunfight, to his final resting place on Saturday.
“When Jun was still alive, he was passionately shouting for justice for the poor and the oppressed. His love for the environment is known to all,” Fr. Bong Estremera, parish priest of Our Lady of Sorrows Shrine Church at the foot of Mt. Banahaw, said in his homily.
“Now we will continue shouting for justice for Jun until we achieve it,” he said.
Thousands of mourners, some of them carrying tarpaulin streamers that carried their demand for justice for Lontok and the other 12 victims of the Atimonan incident, marched the three-kilometer stretch from the mountain village of Santa Lucia amid intermittent rains.
Most of the mourners wore white shirts with printed markings of “Justice for Jun Lontok and other 12 men in Atimonan massacre” and pinned with white and yellow ribbons.
Family members were still in a state of shock over Lontok’s unexpected demise and the brutal manner of his death.
Consemino, Lontok Jr. and 11 others, who were on board two vehicles, were killed at close range by police and Army soldiers conducting a checkpoint along the Maharlika Highway in Atimonan, Quezon, last Sunday.
Law enforcers tagged the victims as alleged members of a private armed group, gun-for-hire and illegal gambling syndicate.
The families of the victims, including three policemen, vehemently denied the accusations and maintained that they were innocent persons who were mercilessly massacred.
Members of the Mimaropa police headed by Chief Supt. Melito Mabilin offered the necrological services on the last night of the wake of Consemino at the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios chapel.
“His classmates remembered him during their cadet days [at the PNPA]. They talked about their naughtiness like when they tried to escape the academy just to eat bulalo (beef soup) in Calamba,” Mabilin said.
“We leave the investigation of the case to the National Bureau of Investigation and other investigating bodies,” said Opeña, speaking on behalf of the class.
Aside from Consemino, two other policemen, PO1 Jeffrey Tarinay Valdez and SPO1 Gruet Alinea Mantuano, were also killed in the Atimonan encounter. They were also assigned in Mimaropa.
Mabilin said they already started the “backtracking” of the activities of the three policemen prior to the encounter but admitted that their investigation was limited.
He said Consemino and Valdez were both on their New Year’s break but Mantuano was supposed to be on duty at the Naujan police station in Oriental Mindoro.
Mabilin said Consemino, on Jan. 2, phoned the police chief of Naujan and asked the chief’s permission if he could take Mantuano with him as an escort when he goes to Laguna. Mantuano was previously under Consemino’s office.
Mantuano and Valdez, who was from San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, left for Laguna on Jan. 3 after attending a wedding in Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro on that same day. Mabilin said there was no mention of them going to Bicol.
“That’s why we are inviting the family of Supt. Consemino and the parents of Valdez and Mantuano to come here so we could get their accounts, too, as to (the three policemen’s) activities prior (to the encounter). But the families requested to meet us after the victims were all buried,” Mabilin said.
The Mimaropa police headquarters is based in Calapan City. Valdez and Mantuano will be buried on Tuesday.
Manny Calayag, Lontok’s fellow Banahaw mountaineer, said the thousands who brought his close friend to his final resting place in a private cemetery was proof of how he was well-loved by the people.
Some of the mourners came from different Banahaw mountain villages who were assisted by Lontok in their struggle to own the land they till and how to improve their livelihood.
“Jun helped and protected us during the intense war between the government forces and New People’s Army,” said Juan Mendez, a farmer.
Mendez said they were forced to evacuate their mountain village in Sariaya town to escape being caught in the crossfire.
“But Jun never left us. He brought us food and medicine for the young children, which he solicited from his friends,” said the farmer.
Some tricycle drivers in front of the church were overheard saying that the policemen and Army soldiers who manned the checkpoint in Atimonan should also answer for their deeds.
At the entrance of the cemetery, around 50 mourners repeatedly shouted “Katarungan para kay Jun Lontok (Justice for Jun Lontok)” while his white coffin was being brought out of the hearse.
Not one from the Lontok family made a statement during the funeral.
They were all crying out loud, hugging each other tight and trying to console one another.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he also knew Lontok, a close relative, as a good man who lived a simple life.
“He used to own a small farm in Dolores, Quezon. He is a good person, a quiet man with a small livelihood,” Alcala said when asked to comment at the sidelines of the multisectoral agricultural summit in San Juan City.
Lontok, according to his relatives, had joined Alcala in several environmental projects in Quezon province when the latter was still a congressman.
“He was one of those helping me in some activities in Mt. Banahaw. They were part of my team then when we were with the NGO Tanggol Kalikasan,” Alcala said.
He said he was saddened that the killing was also being linked to politics as Lontok had also been part of the administration’s Liberal Party (LP).
“What’s wrong if he was from LP? People were killed and still their names are being tainted by politics,” he said. With a report from Niña P. Calleja
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