PAOCC washes hands of Quezon 'shootout'

Posted at 01/11/13 8:41 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) on Friday denied it had approved last Sunday's joint military-police operation in Atimonan, Quezon that left 13 people dead.

PAOCC Executive Director Reginald Villasanta admitted that the Palace body, led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., received a proposal for the operation to neutralize the group led by suspected illegal gambling operator Victorino Siman.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report on Friday said the proposal for the operation, code-named "Coplan Armado," was submitted to the PAOCC last Oct. 24, 2012.

An Inquirer source said Siman was the primary target of the operations and that his companions on the day of the alleged shootout had become "collateral damage."

The source added that Siman was one of two leaders of a syndicate involved in illegal gambling, drugs and gunrunning. The other leader is an elected municipal official in Batangas province.

The proposal, submitted by Supt. Hansel Marantan, supposedly details the involvement of Siman in gun-for-hire operations.

Marantan is one of the policemen present in the January 6 gun battle and Siman's alleged rival in gambling operations. He was the only injured policemen in the encounter that left three policemen, an Air Force personnel, and nine others dead.

Villasanta, however, said the PAOCC did not approve the proposal due to limited resources.

"Wala kaming kinalaman dyan at nagbigay kami ng denial kagabi na wala hong approved PAOCC operation at wala kaming involvement sa Atimonan, Quezon incident," Villasanta told dzMM.

"Mayroon po silang sinubmit na proposal, hindi po namin na-approve iyon. Dahil 'di namin na-approve, wala kaming binigyan ng support or any participation doon sa nangyari sa Quezon," he added.

The coplan was signed by Marantan; Supt. Glenn Dumlao, who headed the Special Concerns Task Group; and regional police director Chief Supt. James Melad.

The broadsheet report said the coplan listed 15 "targets" from Batangas and Laguna who included a government official and a relative of a ranking police officer.

The 13 men in the Quezon clash, 4 of whom were law enforcers, were killed by joint military and police forces at a checkpoint in Barangay Lumutan, Atimonan on Sunday afternoon.

The policemen stationed at the checkpoint claimed that the men, on board two sports utility vehicles, fired the first shots. They said the checkpoint was set up after they received reports that a private armed group would pass by the area.

The relatives of the slain men, however, believe the incident was a rubout.

Several police officials and personnel policemen, including Marantan and Quezon Police chief Val De Leon, have since been relieved from their post for supposedly violating operational procedures on checkpoints.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said the policemen were not in uniform while manning the checkpoint. The 25 soldiers, on the other hand, were in fatigues.

A marked police vehicle, another requirement in a checkpoint, was also not found at the main checkpoint area.

Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police, said by not wearing proper uniforms, the 14 policemen violated rules and procedures in setting up checkpoints.