Cop in Quezon shootout snubs PNP probe

The PNP turns over its fact-finding report to the NBI on January 15, but it is lacking a key ingredient: a statement from Supt Hansel Marantan who headed the checkpoint

MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas turned over the 8-page report of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Tuesday, January 15, but he admitted there was one missing piece: an official statement from Supt Hansel Marantan.

Marantan, head of the Calabarzon Regional Special Operations Group who was injured while he was manning the checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon, where the shooting took place, has refused to talk to the PNP fact-finding team tasked to investigate the killings.

“I advise Supt Marantan to submit himself to the process, if not to the PNP, to the NBI. It doesn’t reflect well on you if you do not join this transparent process that is seeking for truth,” Roxas said.

Roxas said the PNP had tried its best to get his side but its efforts were futile. He said the PNP will have no choice but to punish him if he continues to snub investigators, especially the NBI, which has been tasked by President Benigno Aquino III as the sole agency to probe the incident.

While Roxas expressed disappointment in Marantan’s silence, he said they could not push him to talk because the PNP also had to respect his rights as a suspect, such as his right against self-incrimination.

Marantan is being linked to a criminal gang that is supposedly in conflict with another gang led by Victor “Vic” Siman, one of those killed in the shooting. 

On January 6, police killed 13 alleged gang members in vehicles that approached their checkpoint. Initially reported as a shootout, suspicions have emerged on the motive of the killing after unusual facts surfaced following the deaths.

Punishments for police

Initial facts found by the PNP led to the relief of police officials who were present at the checkpoint. Roxas said during the turnover of the report to NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas, that other officers have also been relieved including Chief Supt James Melad, regional director of Calabarzon.

Melad was initially spared from charges, but was relieved after a certain Fernando Morales was killed when he was served an arrest warrant on the morning of Monday, January 14 in Batangas, another province under Calabarzon.

Morales was allegedly a trusted lieutenant of Siman.

Along with Melad, those who were relieved were Supt. Rosauro Acio, the Batangas provincial police director, Supt. Raul Tacaca, head of the SWAT unit of the Batangas police public safety company, Supt. Elpidio Ramirez, chief of the San Juan municipal police station, and Chief Insp. Rodolfo Ama, also of the San Juan police.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima assured the public that a separate administrative and internal investigation is ongoing to probe the involvement of the police present at the checkpoint and those behind its authorization. The police on the scene have been kept at Camp Crame since the incident.

He said that a pre-charge evaluation against 15 police officers, including Marantan, are already in place for violating several police operational procedures, specifically on the checkpoint they set up in Atimonan.

A special PNP committee tasked to investigate violations will question the suspects and recommend actions against them if needed, including a possible summary hearing.

Purisima refused to say what kind of punishment they could face, but said they could be charged with grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty.

The NBI will officially begin their investigation on Wednesday, January 16, and will start questioning the PNP officials who were at the checkpoint. The PNP is scheduled to start the turn over of all physical evidence obtained from the crime scene to the NBI also on Wednesday.

Until then, both Roxas and Rojas said speculations and reports that the incident was an ambush and not a shootout are “premature.”

“I would rather that the final conclusion in so far as the shooting is concerned, whether shootout or rubout, will be declared after a thorough investigation and study of the NBI,” Rojas said.

Rojas said they do not have a timeline for the investigation but promised that they would act as swiftly as possible, acknowledging the national interest on the case. –