As questions hang, mourners cry for justiceBy Madonna T. Virola, Marlon Ramos, Marrah Erika Lesaba |Inquirer Southern Luzon
As doubts hovered over the legitimacy of the Jan. 6 shooting in Atimonan town in Quezon, the man said to be the main target of the bloody police operation was buried in Calamba City on Tuesday.
Under the scorching heat, over 700 people joined the family of Victor “Vic” Siman, one of the 13 men killed in the alleged encounter, in a three-kilometer march to Holy Family Cemetery in Barangay Lecheria.
Some of Siman’s neighbors likened him to Robin Hood, recalling how the alleged operator of the illegal numbers racket “jueteng” helped them whenever they had financial problems.
The private cemetery is 300 meters away from the area where six of Siman’s supposed henchmen were killed two months ago in a purported gun battle with a group of policemen led by Supt. Hansel Marantan, the same police officer who headed the joint police-military operations in Atimonan.
That incident triggered the bad blood between Siman’s group and Marantan, who has been relieved from his post as deputy intelligence chief of the Calabarzon police following the alleged clash in Quezon, according to sources in the Philippine National Police.
Mourners, mostly clad in white shirt, filled the San Vicente Ferrer Parish Church in nearby Barangay Real where a funeral service was held for Siman.
Among those who condoled with his family were incumbent local government officials and police officers who extolled Siman for his kindness and generosity.
‘Like Robin Hood’
“Did you see how many people came here to bid Boss Vic goodbye? If he was really a bad person as what the police claimed, will these people join us today?” said a middle-aged man, who asked not to be identified.
“He was like Robin Hood. He was always ready to help the poor even those he barely knew,” he added.
While Siman’s grieving wife and children begged off from interviews, the clan’s patriarch calmly faced members of the media who covered the event.
“Please tell the President that we would like to thank him for ordering the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to intervene in the case of my son,” Rudy Siman said. “My son did nothing wrong. He really did nothing wrong.”
Asked if the family trusted the NBI investigation, he said: “Yes, we are confident with what the NBI is doing.”
He said the family was planning to file a case against the policemen and soldiers behind his son’s death.
A source close to the family said Siman’s relatives would file murder and robbery charges against Marantan and his men.
In Calapan City, another Quezon fatality, SPO2 Gruet Mantuano, was buried on Tuesday noon at Holy Gardens Cemetery, with family members, relatives and friends wearing T-shirts bearing the face of the policeman and “Justice for Gruet.”
Some 300 members of the regional, provincial, city and the Naujan police escorted the body after Mass at Sto. Niño Cathedral. A 21-gun salute ceremony, as part of police tradition, was held at the cemetery in Barangay Tawiran.
“It was an emotional scene. His children were crying in pain. No one expected his death,” said Insp. Ruel Lacanienta of the Calapan police.
Mantuano had been taking care of his three children, aged 10, 6 and 3 years, after his marriage was annulled.
The police officer would have celebrated his 33rd birthday on Saturday.
Supt. Timoteo Espiritu, city police chief, said Mantuano had worked for some time at the Calapan police before he was assigned to the human resources office of the regional police and later to the Naujan police station.
In San Jose town in Occidental Mindoro, PO1 Jeffrey Tarinay Valdez, who was also killed in the Jan. 6 encounter in Quezon, was buried yesterday at the public cemetery of Magsaysay, a neighboring town where his family lives.
Senior Supt. Lorenzo Detran Jr., director of the provincial police, told the Inquirer by phone that police honors would also be given to Valdez.
The police officer is survived by his wife and 5-month-old daughter. “I instructed our policewomen to give them special comfort,” Detran said.
Valdez’s family has refused to be interviewed.
Last week, two other Quezon fatalities—both members of the Philippine Air Force (PAF)—were buried separately in Mataas na Kahoy town in Batangas.
S/Sgt. Armando Lescano was buried on Jan. 11 at the public cemetery, while Capt. Jimbeam Justiniani was brought to Santuario dela Paz the next day.
A PAF member, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said Lescano was on official leave on Jan. 5-10 while Justiniani was on a weekend leave.