MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang confirmed on Tuesday that the preventive suspension of officials of the Police Regional Office 4A, as announced by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, had the blessing of President Aquino.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte warned that those who would not cooperate with investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) into the Antimonan, Quezon shooting, would be promptly relieved, too.
“(The) refusal to cooperate will not be tolerated. (Interior) Secretary Mar Roxas will be ready to relieve them,” said Valte, when asked about the reported refusal of some members of Police Regional Office 4A in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) to talk with NBI case investigators tasked to come out with forensic, autopsy and ballistic findings of the Atimonan shooting that killed 13 men on Jan. 6.
Valte conducted the briefing in the Palace ahead of the press conference called by Roxas and PNP Director General Alan Purisima.
She, however, said that President Aquino had yet to be briefed on the Calabarzon operation that led to the death of Fernando Morales, after authorities came to his house in San Juan, Batangas, at 1:30 a.m. Monday to serve an arrest warrant for illegal possession of firearms.
Morales was believed to be an accomplice of alleged “jueteng” lord Victor Siman, who was earlier killed in the alleged shootout in Atimonan, Quezon that left 12 other alleged criminals dead.
“We’ll discuss that with the President. We have not been able to discuss that particular point with him, but I understand that Secretary Roxas has already ordered an investigation and has assured the public that the results of such investigation will be fair and transparent,” she said.
Superintendent Hansel Marantan, the team leader of the more than 40 Army Special Forces and policemen that opened fire at two SUVs carrying the 13 alleged criminals, has been uncooperative, refusing to talk with the investigators tasked with securing his testimony and inspecting reported wounds in his hands and foot.
She surmised that Roxas would not tolerate Marantan’s reported refusal to meet with NBI probers, saying that Roxas was “going to coordinate with Secretary Leila de Lima,” who, as head of the Department of Justice, had jurisdiction over the NBI.
“We’ll leave that to the NBI on how to go about that. But certainly, refusal to cooperate will not be tolerated,” she said, when asked if the NBI could force Marantan to have his wounds inspected.
“And Secretary Roxas has already said that he is ready to relieve these policemen if they really refuse to cooperate with the investigation,” she said.
Amid the recent string of killings attributed to men in uniform, Valte reiterated President Aquino’s admission—when he presided over the change of command in the Philippine National Police (PNP) last month—that the PNP had an image problem.
“The leadership of the PNP is cognizant of these challenges to them, and they are perfectly willing to accept the challenge and to take it on,” said Valte, who also welcomed the plan of the Senate to conduct a congressional inquiry.
“We have no problem with that. That is perfectly within the power and jurisdiction of the Senate to investigate the incident in aid of legislation,” said Valte.
She said the probe being led by the National Bureau of Investigation has not been completed, so she could not comment on reports that lapses were committed by police and military personnel involved in the Atimonan shootout.
“If we would need stronger laws against these (violations of police operational procedures), we will leave that to the wisdom and to the judgment of the senator, (including) what they will find, if and when they conduct the investigation,” said Valte.
She reiterated President Aquino’s order for a “full and exhaustive investigation” of the Atimonan, Quezon shooting, which, police said, was a gunfight between security forces and an armed group allegedly involved in the numbers racket, “jueteng.”
Aquino had tasked the NBI “to be the sole investigative agency on the Quezon incident,” while “the PNP will continue its fact finding with respect to the firearms and vehicles and submit its findings to the NBI,” said the Palace last week.
Valte, however, was non-committal when asked if the doctrine of command responsibility would go up higher than the Calabarzon police, amid reports that the proposal for “Coplan Armado” was submitted to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission for its approval.
The commission claimed it had refused to provide funding for the coplan (case operational plan), but the operation still pushed through.
“Let’s see what the NBI will come out with. Remember, the task of the NBI is not just fact-finding but to recommend (charges on those who have) culpability. So, if there is culpability, the NBI will find it and they will put it in their report,” she said.