The National Bureau of Investigation on Monday filed multiple murder charges in the Department of Justice against 14 policemen and 11 soldiers in the killings of suspected gambling lord Vic Siman and 12 others in Atimonan, Quezon province, on Jan. 6.
The NBI also brought charges of obstruction of justice against eight policemen and one soldier in connection with the incident, described as a “rubout,” or summary execution.
In the NBI report released last week, the agency said it was bringing murder charges against 35 police and military personnel. But after a review, the NBI said Monday it was dropping 11 from those originally accused of murder and adding one who was not on the list before.
Explaining why the 11 police and military personnel were dropped from the original list of murder suspects, NBI Deputy Director Virgilio Mendez told the Inquirer that “those people were manning the first and third checkpoints, and they had no participation whatsoever in the shooting.”
“This is already a criminal case and not just a report so we reviewed it again, and there was no participation from the first and third checkpoints. We removed and added names. We also recommended additional nine respondents for obstruction of justice,” he said.
The killings took place in the second checkpoint along the national highway in Atimonan.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano later on Monday announced he had formed a five-member panel that would conduct a preliminary investigation of the NBI charges to determine if they merited prosecution in court.
Named to the panel were Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva as chairman and City Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano, Assistant State Prosecutors Hazel Decena-Valdez and Niven Canlapan and Prosecution Attorney Cesar Angelo Chavez III as members.
Arellano also created a support team for the panel that will be in charge of research, documentary and status reports. The support team is made up of Assistant State Prosecutors Mari Elvira Herrera, Jinky Dedumo and Kathryn May Penaco-Rojas.
Usually, the justice department forms a three-member panel to handle preliminary investigations, but Arellano told reporters he expanded the membership to ensure the swift resolution of the cases.
Charged with 13 counts of murder were former Region IV-A police director Chief Supt. James Andres Melad, former Region IV-A deputy intelligence head Supt. Hansel Marantan, Senior Insp. John Paolo Carracedo, Senior PO1 Arturo Sarmiento, Supt. Ramon Balauag, Senior Insp. Timoteo Orig, Chief Insp. Grant Gollod, Senior PO3 Joselito de Guzman, Senior PO1 Carlo Cataquiz, PO3 Eduardo Oronan, PO2 Nelson Indal, PO2 Al Bhazar Jailani, PO1 Wryan Sardea and PO1 Rodel Talento.
Also charged with murder were 11 personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines led by Lt. Col. Monico Abang, who backed up the police team. The others were Capt. Erwin Macalinao, 1st Lt. Rico Tagure, Cpl. Rogelio Tejares, Privates First Class Michael Franco, Alvin Roque Pabon, Ricky Jay Borja, Melvin Lumalang and Gil Gallego, and Privates Marc Zaldy Docdoc and Emergin Barrete.
Tejares was not included in the executive summary containing the list of those accused of murder. “His name must have been simply overlooked then because of the volume of the report,” said Mendez. His name was added following the review, he said.
Marantan, 41, who had been implicated in previous spectacular shooting incidents in which 27 people were killed, led the police-military team that figured in the Atimonan incident. He was the lone casualty in the supposed encounter, suffering a bullet wound in the leg.
Melad was his supervisor.
Dropped from the case were police officers and soldiers at the first checkpoint:
Insp. Ferdinand Aguilar, PO3 Benedict Dimayuga, PO1 Bernie de Leon and PO1 Allen Ayubo and T/Sgt. Melanio Balauitan, Pvt. Michard Mangao, Pfc. Kirby-Tam Coronel and Cpl. Clark Magusara.
Police officers at the third checkpoint who were also dropped from the case were Insp. Evaristo San Juan, PO2 Ronnie Serdena and PO1 Esperidion Corpuz Jr.
In addition to the murder charges, Carracedo and Tagure were named in the complaint for obstruction of justice, along with members of the scene of the crime operatives (Soco) team of the Quezon Provincial Police Office led by Chief Insp. Zaide Abrera, Insp. Dickson Mercado, SPO1 Meldy Arojo, SPO1 Analiza Burcelango, PO2 Bayani Gonzales, PO3 Nestor Abuan and PO3 Archie Avila.
The filing of the cases came a week after Malacañang released the NBI findings of the Atimonan shooting. The NBI said President Aquino accepted in full the agency’s findings and recommendations.
In sum, the NBI said all indications showed that the Jan. 6 operation of the joint police and military team was a rubout and that the target was Siman.
Those killed in Siman’s group included police and military officers who, the NBI said, were “just with the wrong company, at the wrong time and at the wrong place.”
The NBI also said the rubout was a result of “jueteng”—an illegal numbers racket—rivalry between the group of Siman and a certain “Ka” Tita. Marantan was allegedly protecting Ka Tita.
In its complaint, the NBI said officers and men of the Philippine Army Special Forces, which took part in the Atimonan operations, testified that they saw Carracedo fire the guns of the fallen victims and returned them to their two SUVs, thus establishing an incident of tampering and altering of the crime scene.
Six soldiers pointed to Carracedo as the one who took the firearms of the victims in the first of the two Mitsubishi Montero, “fired them upwards” and then returned them to the vehicles.
“The witnesses’ accounts would also explain why there was discrepancy between the victims’ firearms in relation to the cartridge casings recovered in the crime scene,” the NBI said.
“This also begs the question: If indeed it was a shootout, then why bother altering/tampering the process of evidence in the crime scene unless the contrary happened?” it added.
On the obstruction of justice complaint, the NBI made it clear that the Soco team was not involved in any tampering of evidence but that it failed to cooperate in the investigation.
“Their subsequent withdrawal of cooperation during the investigation, notwithstanding the pronouncement of the Chief Executive for the police and military to cooperate fully in the NBI probe, left many issues unresolved, inter alia: the mismatching of firearms of the victims, the negative ballistic results of firearms submitted by the PNP/AFP and the Soco pictures showing a set of different firearms of certain soldiers/policemen as compared to those turned over by the PNP/AFP,” the NBI said.
It added that all this showed the acts of the police officers and soldiers had “a community of purpose and action, signifying they were all moved by a single criminal intent.”