MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Friday stood by the pronouncement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the Jan. 6 operation in Atimonan, Quezon, was not a shootout, debunking the claim of Superintendent Hansel Marantan and relieved police officials of Southern Tagalog.
Undersecretary Abigail Valte, a Palace spokesperson, rejected insinuations that De Lima was authorized by the Palace to preempt the outcome of the investigation.
“I don’t think that the secretary is preempting the investigation. The media also that were there would also want details owing to their coverage,” said Valte at a briefing in the Palace.
“And we trust that Secretary De Lima is also on hand to provide the proper guidance to the investigation,” she added.
Asked whether De Lima was already jumping the gun on investigators of the National Bureau of Investigation when she claimed that it was not “shootout,” Valte said: “Well, there are other things that need to be settled also and, again, as I reiterated earlier, Secretary De Lima is really in a better position to speak about the details of the ongoing investigation.”
Valte also found nothing wrong with the presence of the justice chief during a reenactment Thursday of the killing of 13 people which now appears to have been killed in cold blood.
She appeared elated that President Benigno Aquino III’s initial impression – that there were “inconsistencies” between the claim of a shootout by Marantan’s group and what was later found at the crime scene – was somewhat validated.
Valte, however, preferred that the Department of Justice or the NBI to be the one to make a conclusion on the killings.
“We will wait for the contents of the final report [of the investigators] before we make any comment on the details that have been coming out in the media lately since the event happened,” she said.
Marantan, Chief Superintendent James Melad, the relieved chief of the Calabarzon police, and Supt. Glenn Dumlao, commander of the Regional Public Safety Battalion of the Calabarzon police, have maintained that “Coplan Armado”(case operation plan) was approved by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission on October 24.
Said Valte: “Again, let’s wait for the conclusions of the investigators themselves. I understand that the personnel of the PAOCC are there at the NBI to submit their affidavits in support of the investigation as ordered by the Executive Secretary.”
Told that Marantan’s lawyer was questioning the presence of the DOJ chief at the reenactment, when the NBI was the only one tasked to investigate, Valte said: “That’s splitting hairs already. That’s irrelevant because, as everybody knows, the NBI is under the supervision of the Department of Justice, which is headed by Secretary De Lima.”
Valte advised Marantan and his lawyer “to cooperate with the investigation rather than attack the Secretary of Justice personally.”
Valte maintained that De Lima was “in a better position” to make the observation, “primarily owing to her proximity to the investigation.”
“As far as we are concerned, if those are the concerns of Supt. Marantan, if those are their concerns, then again, we always go back to what we have been saying that they can always cooperate to present their side of the story.
“I understand that they were asked to give an affidavit; they have turned over one of the slugs. Further cooperation is needed if they want to get their side of the story into the investigation,” said Valte.