The National Bureau of Investigation has completed its inquiry into the killing of 13 people in Atimonan, Quezon province, and is recommending the filing of murder charges against policemen and soldiers at the checkpoint where the incident happened on Jan. 6, the Inquirer learned Tuesday.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she expected the NBI to submit to her the report on its monthlong inquiry and that she would turn it over to President Aquino on Wednesday.
“The President has asked me about the report and I told him I would give it to him (Wednesday),” De Lima told reporters. She earlier said that the NBI report had gone beyond 300 pages.
“The recommendation was the filing of murder charges,” said a source who has knowledge of the NBI report. The source requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak to reporters.
The source said that the main report of at least 70 pages contains the findings and the names of persons recommended by the NBI for prosecution. Enclosed with the report were annexes at least six inches thick. It includes the technical findings of the scene of the crime operatives, the accounts of three eyewitnesses and testimonies of more than 60 people.
NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas submitted the report to De Lima Tuesday afternoon, according to the source, who said that the agency’s chief was the sole signatory to the document.
On Jan. 6, alleged southern Luzon “jueteng” operator Victor “Vic” Siman and 12 others, including three policemen and three soldiers, were killed in what the Quezon police reported as a shootout between police and soldiers and a group of alleged guns for hire at a security checkpoint on Maharlika Highway in Atimonan.
There were 15 policemen at the checkpoint, supported by 10 soldiers from the Army’s First Special Forces Battalion.
Siman’s group was wiped out, but on the government’s side only the police team leader, Supt. Hansel Marantan, was wounded—in the hands and knee.
Relatives cry ‘rubout’
The officers said the firefight erupted after two sports utility vehicles carrying the alleged gang members tried to smash through the checkpoint. The exchange of gunfire supposedly lasted for 18 minutes.
Relatives of the victims denied that the fatalities were gang members and doubted the initial reports of a shootout. Instead, they claimed what happened was a “rubout.”
On Jan. 8, President Aquino ordered the NBI to investigate the incident. He directed the Philippine National Police to continue its fact-finding inquiry with respect to the firearms and vehicles, and submit its findings to the NBI.
On Jan. 9, PNP Director General Alan Purisima ordered the suspension of the Quezon police chief, Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon, and Marantan.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Marantan’s team violated procedures as an initial PNP investigation found that the policemen at the checkpoint were not in uniform. He said that while uniformed officers were stationed 500 meters from the checkpoint, the area was not marked with police signs.
On Jan. 11, the NBI said it would expand its investigation and look into the role in the incident of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), following a report that the anticrime superbody had approved the operation.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who chairs the PAOCC, denied approving the operation.
Supt. Glenn Dumlao, commander of the Calabarzon Public Safety Battalion, said the regional police went ahead with the mission even without PAOCC approval on the presumption of regularity because it was their job to go after organized crime groups.
On Jan. 15, the PNP fact-finding committee submitted its report to the NBI, and indicated that there was no shootout. It also said there was a deliberate effort to make the crime scene look like the site of a gun battle.
The committee found that excessive force was used, indicated by their gunshot wounds and the number of bullet holes on their vehicles: Vehicle 1 with 174 entry bullet holes; vehicle 2 with 45 entry bullet holes. Eleven victims were shot in the head.
Criminal, admin charges
The PNP panel recommended the filing of criminal charges against the policemen and Army special forces that took part in the supposed shootout. They also recommended administrative charges against the policemen involved.
The policemen included James Melad, former Calabarzon police chief; Marantan; Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon, Quezon police director; Supt. Ramon Balauag, chief of intelligence of the Quezon police; Dumlao; Chief Insp. Grant Gollod, Atimonan police chief; Senior Insp. Ferdinand Aguilar, leader of the police team at the first of three checkpoints in Atimonan at the time of the supposed shootout; and Insp. Evaristo San Juan, team leader at the third checkpoint.
On Jan. 24, Purisima approved the recommendation of the PNP Internal Affairs Service to bring administrative charges against 22 policemen involved in the incident for violation of the police operational procedures.
As of last week, 20 policemen were under the custody of the police in Camp Crame while 15 soldiers of the Army’s Special Forces, who were part of an augmentation team, were restricted to quarters at the Army Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.—With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Inquirer Research