MANILA, Philippines – Multiple murder charges were filed Thursday by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against 13 police officers involved in the killing of suspected gambling lord Vic Siman and 12 others in Atimonan, Quezon province on January 6.
Eleven soldiers, meanwhile, were dropped from the list, according to the 43-page resolution signed by prosecutor general Claro Arellano of the Gumaca regional trial court in Quezon.
Philippine Daily Inquirer earlier reported that the Atimonan shootout was a joint operation by the police and military targeting only Siman but led to the killing of other people, mostly police officers.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said the rubout was a result of rivalry in “jueteng”—a numbers racket—between the group of Siman and a certain “Ka” Tita.
Superintendent Hansel Marantan, one of the police officers charged, was allegedly protecting Ka Tita.
The killings took place at the second checkpoint along the national highway in Atimonan, Quezon province.
Superintendent Hansel Marantan
Superintendent Ramon Balauag
Chief Inspector Grant Gollod
Senior Inspector John Paolo Carracedo
Senior Inspector Timoteo Orig
Senior Police Officer 3 Joselito de Guzman
Senior Police Officer 1Arturo Sarmiento
Senior Police Officer 1Carlo Cataquiz
Police Officer 3 Eduardo Oronan
Police Officer 2 Nelson Indal
Police Officer 2 Al Bhazar Jailani
Police Officer 1 Wryan Sardea
Police Officer 1 Rodel Talento alias “Rodel Tolentino”
Charged with obstruction of justice were Senior Inspector John Paolo Carracedo and Army Lieutenant Rico Tagure.
The resolution dropped the charges of obstruction of justice for insufficiency of evidence against the following Philippine National Police (PNP) Quezon Crime Laboratory Personnel: Chief Superintendent Zaide Abrera, Inspector Dickson Mercado, Senior Police Officer 1 Meldy Arojo, Senior Police Officer 1 Analiza Burcelango, Police Officer 3 Nestor Abuan, Police Officer 3Archie Avila and Police Officer 2 Bayani Gonzales.
Cleared were the following:
Chief Superintendent James Melad
Lieutenant Colonel Monico Abang
Captain Erwin Macalinao
First Lieutenant Rico Tagure
Corporal Rogelio Tejares
Private First Class Ricky Jay Borja
Private First Class Michael Franco
Private First Class Gil Gallego
Private First Class Melvin Lumalang
Private First Class Alvin Roque Pabon
Private Emergin Barrete
Private Marc Zaldy Docdoc
DOJ panel’s findings
The DOJ panel said that all elements of the crime of murder were present in the case. It said the evidence was clear that all the accused policemen, except for Melad, who was not at the scene during the slaughter, fired upon Siman and his group who were in two Mitsubishi Monteros.
And although several persons fired shots at the Siman group, the act was considered “independent but in concert with each other.”
The panel said that the policemen, except for Melad, plotted to eliminate the victims.
“The plan to eliminate the group of Vic Siman became apparent when respondent Marantan, together with respondents Gollod and Balauag, put up a three-layered checkpoint, which in the first place, was highly irregular and non-conforming to common and established procedures on checkpoints,” the panel said.
It said the NBI was able to provide credible ‘ evidence that some of the victims were shot at close range and that forensic and chemical examinations showed there was no possibility that the occupants of the Monteros could have fired from within the vehicles.
The panel also took note that the actions of the policemen after the shooting “strongly signify their intention to muddle up the evidence in this case to mislead and/or influence the result of the investigation, and show their earlier premeditated plan to kill the occupants of the Monteros.”
The complaint against Melad was dismissed because the panel said the evidence failed to establish his participation in the conspiracy. The police superintendent was not present during the shooting, it said, as it thumbed down the claim that Melad’s signing of an operation plan was tantamount to knowledge of the plan to kill them.
Also, Melad did not know the identities of the targets of the checkpoints because Marantan told him only there was an armed group being pursued but not their identities.
“The concealment of the identities of the targets is a manifestation that Marantan did not want Melad to know about their operation. In fact, such concealment proves that Melad is not part of the conspiracy,” it said.
The charges against the soldiers were dismissed because, the panel said, the evidence did not show that they were part of the conspiracy to eliminate the victims.
“In fact, respondents-AFP were surprised and bewildered when, after the shooting incident, respondent Carracedo started taking the firearms of the victims and firing them into the air at different directions… manifest(ing) that their knowledge regarding the plan to kill the victims (was) limited, if they had any knowledge at all,” the panel said.
The panel said while the soldiers did fire at the victims, it was because they were contacted to support the operation of the police, which “dictated” the operation.
“Perhaps if they were in conspiracy with the police elements, they could have just easily kept to themselves what respondent Carracedo did. Their electing to reveal the irregularity indicates for us a clear conscience on the part of these AFP personnel,” the panel’s resolution said.
Suspicion that these soldiers were in cahoots with the policemen were erased when they admitted firing their firearms, unlike their police counterparts.
The panel also concluded that the killing of the victims was attended by the qualifying circumstances of “evident premeditation, taking advantage of superior strength, treachery and with the aid of armed men.”
By evident premeditation, the panel cited the fact that the policemen put up the checkpoints so as not to miss their objects and to prevent outsiders from witnessing the killings.
The panel said obstruction of justice charges should be filed against Carracedo and Tagure.
It agreed with the NBI claim that Carracedo was found to have tampered with or altered the crime scene when he willfully and deliberately fired the firearms of the victims in the air or in different directions and then returned them to where he got them. Likewise, it said that it found Carracedo’s acts “part and parcel of the scheme to murder the victims.”
Tagure, on the other hand, was charged because he broke the glass windows of the two Monteros and opened the door of one of the vehicles so that Carracedo would be able to take the firearms there and fire them. With a report from Christine O. Avendaño, Philippine Daily Inquirer