21 PNP, 14 AFP officials to be charged in Atimonan “rubout”

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Justice Secretary Leila De Lima. Photo courtesy of Bulatlat.com
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima. Photo courtesy of Bulatlat.com

By Perfecto T. Raymundo

MANILA (7-Mar-2013) – Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima Wednesday confirmed they have recommended the filing of multiple murder and administrative charges against 21 officers of the Philippine National Police and 14 personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in connection with the Atimonan check point shooting incident.

The shooting incident claimed the lives of 13 policemen, soldiers and civilians in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6.

In a press conference, De Lima said among those recommended charged with multiple murder and administrative cases are former Calabarzon PNP regional director Chief Supt. James Melad, Senior Supt. Hansel Marantan, among others.

De Lima said the NBI executive report was accompanied by numerous annexes submitted by the NBI to the President through the DOJ Secretary.

She added the President personally read the NBI executive report, hence, it took some time before it was released, including the annexes.

De Lima said they were given by the President the clearance to release the report and file the appropriate charges.

She said multiple murder charges will be filed against 21 PNP personnel who directly participated in the “Operation Armado” led by Marantan, Melad, and 14 from AFP personnel headed by Lt. Col. Monico Abang, who was the commander of the AFP Solcom Special Forces Battalion.

The respondents were also recommended charged for obstruction of justice for allegedly tampering the scene of the crime, De Lima said.

In the multiple murder charges, De Lima said the NBI conclusion was arrived at after a thorough investigation, based “not only on testimonial but typical forensic investigation because there were findings of mishandling of evidences.”

De Lima said the conclusion of the NBI was similar with the conclusion of the PNP Fact-Finding Committee in that there was no “shootout” as it was a case of summary execution through rubout.

“The findings of the forensic investigation corroborated the testimonies of three eyewitnesses who were on board a truck, two of them participated in the ocular inspection (of the crime scene),” De Lima said.

During the reenactment, De Lima said the third witness cooperated, however, “the names of the witnesses were indicated in the report but were hidden under pseudonyms for their own security as they are now in the Witness Protection Program.”

One of the important findings, which is disturbing, De Lima said is that “some of the victims were either already lying on the ground and surrendering but were still fired upon by the operatives.”

De Lima said some PNP operatives after the incident, were involved in the “tampering of the crime scene such that the PNP fired guns in the air after everyone has been confirmed dead to make it appear that the weapons were used by the victims during the incident.”

After the victims were killed, De Lima said the firearms were gathered and fired on air to make it appear that there was a shootout.

De Lima said the tampering was further done such that “karamihan ng firearms surrendered to NBI were not directly used by the PNP and AFP during the incident, hence, they should be charged with obstruction of justice, because it hampered the investigation, because most of the surrendered firearms were not used in the incident.”

De Lima said there were limitations on the part of the NBI in its investigation, but there were conclusions supported by appropriate evidences such that the PNP SOCO first investigated the case, there was a significant delay in the turnover of physical evidence by the SOCO and the crime scene was tampered.

In the conclusion on page 64 of executive report, De Lima said, all of the firearms surrendered by the PNP and the AFP, the paramount objective of the operation was to kill all the victims, one of them was already in the act of surrendering.

De Lima said “the checkpoint was intended to kill Victor Siman and his group.” (PNA)

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