They did not only break police checkpoint rules but they also went beyond their jurisdiction.
So for committing “very serious violations” of the rules, the 22 policemen involved in the gunslaying of 13 people in Atimonan, Quezon province, on Jan. 6 are now facing dismissal from the service.
Director General Alan Purisima, Philippine National Police chief, told a press briefing Thursday that he had approved the recommendation of the PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) to bring administrative charges against the policemen led by Supt. Hansel Marantan, the ground commander of the police team at a checkpoint along Maharlika Highway in Atimonan, where the 13 men were killed in a supposed shootout with the authorities.
Besides Marantan, facing administrative charges are Chief Insp. Grant Gollod, Supt. Ramon Balauag, Senior Insp. John Paulo Carracedo, Inspectors Timoteo Orig, Ferdinand Aguilar and Evaristo San Juan.
Also facing administrative charges are SPO3 Joselito de Guzman, Senior Police Officers 1 Claro Cataquiz Jr. and Arturo Sarmiento, Police Officers 3 Benedict Dimayuga and Eduardo Oronan, Police Officers 2 Ronnie Serdena, Esperidion Corpuz, Nelson Indal and Al Bhazar Jailani, and Police Officers 1 Wryan Sardea, Rodel Talento, Allen Ayobo and Esperidion de Leon.
“The PNP … continued with our administrative processes … We [did] this in order to identify and correct operational lapses that would lead to the improvement of our mandate of serving and protecting the people,” Purisima said.
Besides filing administrative cases for violation of the police operational procedures, Purisima said he had ordered Director Alexander Roldan, IAS inspector general, to continue the investigation and determine other possible liabilities of the policemen.
He said the precharge investigation and summary proceedings of the IAS would take at least three months.
“Based on the thorough and deliberate evaluation of the pieces of evidence gathered, the IAS found violations of some provisions of the police operational procedures,” Purisima said.
“In view of these findings, I approved the recommendation of the IAS to formally charge the PNP personnel who took part in the Atimonan checkpoint … These are very serious violations.”
Should they be found guilty, Roldan said the policemen may be dropped from the rolls and criminal charges may be brought against them.
Purisima said the policemen had been placed under restrictive custody at the Personnel Holding and Administrative Unit in Camp Crame to ensure their appearance in the IAS proceedings.
Marantan, the only one on the government side who was wounded in the supposed shootout, was wheeled into the PNP General Hospital yesterday to undergo therapy for at least a month, according to Chief Supt. Angelita Vidal, director of the PNP Health Service.
Vidal said the wheelchair-bound Marantan had metal braces on his left arm and both his legs when he was brought to the orthopedic ward of the hospital at around 1:30 p.m.
“He needs to be confined at the hospital while he’s undergoing physical therapy. He still cannot walk. He’s also complaining about numbness in his left hand,” Vidal told reporters.
Purisima said he had asked permission from President Aquino to bring similar administrative charges against Chief Supt. James Melad and Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon, who were sacked as Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) police director and Quezon police chief, respectively.
Under the PNP law, police officials with the rank of senior superintendent and higher are considered presidential appointees.
Purisima said: “The Atimonan incident may have placed the entire police organization in a bad light. But we take it as an opportunity for us to aggressively push for the necessary reforms and programs to give the Filipino people the best service and protection they deserve from the PNP.”
Citing the findings of IAS investigators, Purisima said Marantan’s group, which was composed mainly of officers from the Atimonan police station, violated the policy on territorial jurisdiction by putting up the first layer of the checkpoint in Barangay Tanauan, a village in the adjacent town of Plaridel.
The incident, which Justice Secretary Leila de Lima described as “definitely not a shootout,” happened at the second and main police blockade located in Barangay (village) Lumutan in Atimonan.
The second checkpoint was set up about 500 meters after the first one, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas said in a previous interview.
Marantan’s group put up a third checkpoint, also 500 meters from the main police blockade, Roxas said.
“The area was outside the jurisdiction of the Atimonan police office because they conducted the checkpoint in Plaridel town. The first checkpoint was actually 5 meters away from the boundary of Atimonan,” Roldan said.
“It’s clear here that members of the Atimonan police were there at the first checkpoint [although] the place where [it was set up] was in Plaridel town,” Purisima said.
Asked why Marantan chose to tap the Atimonan police in carrying out the operation against illegal gambling lord Victor “Vic” Siman, Purisima said Marantan and Gollod, who was also relieved as Atimonan police chief, used to work together in the same police unit.
A check by the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed that Gollod was Marantan’s deputy when he headed the Police Public Safety Battalion in Quezon.
Purisima said the policemen also broke the PNP policy requiring officers manning checkpoints to be in uniform.
In a previous news briefing, Purisima said 15 of the 22 policemen at the Atimonan checkpoint were in civvies.
Purisima said Marantan’s group violated the PNP rule on “police composition” during checkpoint operations.
“There is a required number of policemen in every checkpoint operation. There should be a forward observer. There should be a proper designation of PNP personnel which was not observed in the Atimonan incident,” he said.
In addition, Purisima said, Marantan’s team did not follow the PNP policy requiring officers at checkpoints to use official police vehicles “with clear PNP markings.”
“I remind our PNP personnel to learn from this incident so that they will not commit similar violations in the future. Even very simple violations may lead to their dismissal from the service if they are found guilty,” Purisima said.
But Supt. Glenn Dumlao, supervisor of the Atimonan operation, said the IAS decision to bring administrative charges against the policemen was “unfair and irresponsible.”
“I stand by the regularity of what the operating troops had undertaken. There was substantial compliance with the establishment of [the] checkpoints and with the police operational procedures,” Dumlao said in a text message to the Inquirer on Thursday.
Dumlao was relieved as commander of the Regional Public Safety Battalion of the Calabarzon police after the supposed shootout.
Although not present at the Atimonan checkpoint, Dumlao and Melad were also charged for command responsibility.
“To even call them clear violations of the [rules is] the height of hypocritical blindness,” Dumlao said. “But, of course, we always welcome this investigation so [we’ll] have a venue to present our side,” he added.
Dumlao said the presence at the checkpoint of seven Atimonan police officers in uniform and Army soldiers in full uniform was enough compliance with the rules.
“As for those who were not in uniform, remember that they were intelligence [agents],” he said.
He also questioned the finding that the policemen violated jurisdiction, pointing out that Marantan coordinated the operation with De Leon.
He said the Atimonan police station had only one marked police vehicle, but the Army truck had enough markings.
“Every good commander will tell you that checkpoints are set up to your tactical advantage, especially when you are to encounter a group of fully armed men,” Dumlao said. With a report from Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon
Originally posted at 12:27 pm | Thursday, January 24, 2013