Miner tipped off police on ‘jueteng’ lord—MarantanBy Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
CAMP VICENTE LIM, Laguna—The ground commander of the police operation on Jan. 6 that left 13 people dead in Atimonan town, Quezon province, said on Tuesday he did not know that an alleged illegal gambling lord was leading the three-vehicle convoy from Bicol until the last few hours before the encounter.
According to Supt. Hansel Marantan, suspended deputy chief of intelligence of the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) police, an informant tipped him off to a fully armed group traveling through Quezon that Sunday, but “there was no mention of Vic Siman.”
Siman was an alleged operator of the numbers racket “jueteng” in Laguna and Batangas provinces and one of two targets of the police operation “Coplan Armado.”
The other target of the “coplan” (case operational plan) is Mayor Joven Hidalgo of Balete, Batangas.
Hidalgo, in previous media interviews, denied involvement in jueteng and gunrunning in Calabarzon.
It was only about three hours before the encounter that Bicol gold miner Ronnie Habitan gave the information that Siman was traveling with the group, Marantan said in an interview at St. Luke’s Medical Center, where he is confined for treatment of gunshot wounds sustained during a supposed shootout between government security forces and the group at a police-military checkpoint in Atimonan.
Siman met with Habitan at the gold miner’s house in Camarines Norte early on that Sunday.
Siman’s group reached Atimonan after 3 p.m. and everyone on the first two vehicles were killed in the supposed gun battle with Marantan’s team that was backed up by Army special forces.
The third vehicle turned around and fled.
Marantan, who drew up “Coplan Armado,” was suspended along with high-ranking officials of the Calabarzon police and ordered to cooperate with the National Bureau of Investigation, which is investigating the bloodbath in Atimonan.
“Armado” was submitted to the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) in October last year for approval and funding, but was disapproved, according to the commission’s top officials.
PAOCC OKs operation
But the sacked chief of the Calabarzon police insisted on Wednesday that the PAOCC, headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., approved “Coplan Armado.”
“In the declaration of the PAOCC, the disapproval is only on the portion of the funding,” Chief Supt. James Melad, until Tuesday director of the Calabarzon police, told a news conference at NBI headquarters in Manila.
“On its operation, it was go,” Melad said in English and Filipino.
Melad and four other Calabarzon police officials were relieved on Tuesday and ordered to Manila for questioning on the killing of Fernando “Pandoy” Morales, an alleged member of a gun-for-hire gang in Batangas with links to Siman, in another supposed shootout with police on Jan. 14.
New Calabarzon chief
Chief Supt. Benito Estipona replaced Melad in Calabarzon on Tuesday. Estipona is formerly chief of the Southern Police District in Metro Manila.
Melad issued a statement, saying he respected President Aquino’s decision to relieve him, describing it as “part of the normal process.”
He said he was confident that his relief would “pave the way for an impartial investigation” of the police operations in Quezon and Batangas.
Melad urged the other police officials who were also sacked to cooperate in the government’s investigation.
He denied that his command was uncooperative with the investigators. He said he had given orders for the turnover of all reports on the Atimonan operation to the investigators.
A police source said the operation in which Morales was killed was not related to the Atimonan operation.
Denying that police are in hot pursuit of the remnants of Siman’s group, the source said there was a separate operation against Morales’ gun-for-hire group called “Bahay Kubo.”
An investigative team from Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, is investigating the killing of Morales.
Marantan said “Coplan Armado” was “not made overnight.”
He, too, said the proposal was submitted to the PAOCC for approval and received P100,000 of the requested P900,000 in funding for the operation.
The PAOCC has denied approving and giving funds for the operation.
“It’s now their word against mine, [but] I have the received copy [of the approval of the request for funding],” Marantan said.
Aside from Marantan and Melad, the other Calabarzon police official who knew about the plan for the operation was Supt. Glenn Dumlao, chief of the Regional Public Safety Battalion of the Calabarzon police.
Marantan denied charges that the Atimonan incident was a rubout.
“I can swear to my God that it was not a rubout,” he said.
He also denied that his gunshot wounds were self-inflicted.
“How could someone intentionally shoot himself in the knee, with the bullet piercing through the bone?” he said.
He said his doctors had told him that it would take him six months to fully recover from his injuries. With a report from Marlon Ramos
Tags: Alfredo Consemino , Atimonan 13 , Crime , DoJ , gambling , Government , Hansel Marantan , Illegal drugs , Jueteng , Military , NBI , Police , Quezon Province , Quezon shootout , Regions , Vic Siman