Marantan: I am the collateral damage
The police officer who led the intelligence operation against alleged “jueteng” operator Victor Siman felt that his superiors in the Philippine National Police had turned their backs on him after the reported encounter that left 13 people dead in Atimonan town in Quezon on Jan. 6.
“I am the collateral damage,” Supt. Hansel Marantan said when controversy began to rage after the killings.
“With this kind of investigation, I am not happy [about it],” Marantan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Tuesday by his bedside at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, where he was brought for treatment of bullet wounds he sustained in the Atimonan encounter.
Marantan, 42, was among those behind Coplan (case operation plan) “Armado” on which the operation was based and was the ground commander in a team of 41 policemen and Army soldiers involved in the reported gun battle. He insisted that Siman’s group was flagged down at a legitimate checkpoint.
Siman, according to the coplan, was an operator of illegal gambling and leader of a private armed group in Southern Tagalog.
The plan was submitted to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Marantan said, along with a request to release P900,000 (not P300,000 as earlier reported) as funding support.
The PAOCC board, he added, approved the fund release and in fact already gave his group P100,000 after the November operation in Calamba City in Laguna province.
The PAOCC said the request was disapproved. Marantan, however, insisted that the operation would proceed even if the release of funds was stopped.
“Instead of talking to the members of the operating team, what did our commanding officers do? They listened to the media and then said it was a rubout. Did they even talk to us?” Marantan said in Filipino.
“Those of us on the ground, we get hurt, too,” he said, referring to initial reports from the PNP fact-finding committee.
The families of some of the fatalities have claimed that their loved ones included legitimate businessmen and an environmentalist.
Also on Tuesday, a former “hit man” of Siman who later became Marantan’s informant, said all those slain in Atimonan were involved either as middleman or negotiator for Siman.
“The only people who might not have been involved [in the bookies operations] were the three drivers and bodyguards,” said the informant, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He was referring to Conrado Decillo, Gerry Siman and Leonardo Marasigan, who were distant relatives of Siman.
Marantan said he was a victim of “character assassination,” pointing out that his previous cases had tainted the ongoing investigation. He and Supt. Glenn Dumlao, who was the case coordinator of Armado, were implicated in past cases of police rubouts.
Chief Supt. James Melad, the regional director who approved the operation plan, was relieved from his post on Tuesday.
Only he, Melad, Dumlao and three other intelligence officers in the Calabarzon knew about it because of the “sensitivity” of the case, Marantan said. The case, he pointed out, involved a mayor in Batangas and other police officers believed to be on the take from illegal gambling.