MANILA, Philippines — Sacked Calabarzon Police Regional Director James Melad insisted on Wednesday that the Atimonan, Quezon operation that led to the deaths of 13 people, had the blessings of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
Melad was among those who showed up at the National Bureau of Investigation to attend a hearing on the investigation of the alleged shoot-out that resulted in the deaths of 13 men now being linked by the police to the illegal gambling “jueteng” racket and a guns-for-hire syndicate.
“Sa declaration ng (In the declaration of) PAOCC, the disapproval is only on the portion of the funding of the coplan (case operations plan). On the operation, go pa rin (it was still a go),” Melad said in a press conference after his meeting with the NBI investigators.
Melad also said he was at the NBI to comply with President Benigno Aquino III’s directive to police officers and soldiers to cooperate in the probe, and the bureau’s invitation to respond to questions about the alleged shoot-out.
He also confirmed that Superintendent Hansel Marantan was the one who directly dealt with the PAOCC, as the officer on case of the” Coplan Armado.”
“As far as I know, I signed the case operational plan submitted by Superintendent Marantan…yung sa level ko (at my level), we endorsed it to the PAOCC. The coplan was submitted by Superintendent Marantan to the PAOCC for possible funding.”
“I believe na siya yung rumekta na (he was the one who went directly) upon my approval sa (to) PAOCC to ask for the support,” he explained.
When asked what was in the coplan report he said, it was confidential.
“Yung (The) details [of coplan report], I cannot disclose. These are highly controversial matters. It’s not supposed to be disclosed.”
When asked again if all the 13 victims had criminal records on their file, he said, “I cannot memorize the names of these people… I signed the coplan but I do not exactly know or memorize the contents of the coplan.”
Apart from Melad, other personalities involved in the alleged shootout along Maharlika highway in Quezon province also showed up at the NBI.
But according to NBI Death Investigators Division, only three affidavits were submitted to them by those called to testify.
“Only three officials of the Army Special Forces have submitted their sworn statements, the rest promised cooperation,’’ the NBI investigator said.
NBI also said that a lawyer claimed he was there to represent Marantan, but did not carry any document signed by the police official assigning him to represent him.
The lawyer for the soldiers, Crisanto Buella, said in an interview with reporters that his clients maintained that the operation was legitimate.
“It was a legitimate operation. They were asked to assist the Philippine National Police under Colonel Marantan in the conduct of the checkpoint,” he said.
He added that the soldiers should instead get a commendation based on a successful operation.
He also said his clients, the officials and men of the Army Special Forces reiterated it was a “shootout.’’
Superintendent Glenn Dumlao, who came in the afternoon, also insisted that it was an encounter and it was a legitimate operation.
Dumlao did not answer questions on PAOCC.