DILG chief relieves policemen in Atimonan shooting incident

INTERIOR and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas today announced the relief of all members of the Philippine National Police who were involved in the deadly shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon last Sunday that led to the death of 13 men, including three PNP men and two Air Force soldiers.

The relief order came after the initial results of a PNP fact-finding mission showed that the policemen who were involved in the setting up of a checkpoint where the alleged encounter took place violated operational procedures.

“The role of the PNP in this matter is purely as a fact-finding body and to determine the administrative liabilities of those who were involved,” Roxas said. “The criminal investigation will be handled by the National Bureau of Investigation, and we will give them our full support.”

Among those ordered relieved were Senior Supt. Valeriano de Leon, the Quezon provincial police director, the chief of police of Atimonan town, and an intelligence unit of about 15 men under Supt. Hansel Marantan, who was wounded in the incident.

The fact-finding investigation is led by Chief Supt. Federico Castro, deputy chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

The relieved officers have been recalled to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame where they will be held in restricted custody, while the non-commissioned officers will be restricted within Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna.

During a press conference in Camp Crame this afternoon, Roxas said the fact-finding group established that out of the 13 men who were killed in the incident, eight were positive for gunpowder burns but said these are not conclusive that they indeed fired guns during the Sunday incident.

The DILG secretary also said that of the 14 guns recovered from the cars of the slain men, 13 were licensed, but only seven are covered by permits to carry.

“Hindi biro ang insidenteng ito. Mayroon kang 13 kalalakihan na puro armado. Hindi naman siguro sila manonood lang ng sine,” Roxas said. “Aalamin natin ang buong katotohanan dito at tinitiyak kong hindi magkakaroon ng whitewash at takipan.”

For his part, PNP Director General Alan Purisima said the policemen involved in the incident, particularly those who set up the checkpoint, violated basic procedures such as the failure to put distinct signs in the main checkpoint and the lack of a marked police vehicle in the vicinity.

He added that only one uniformed policeman, the chief of police of Atimonan, was manning the checkpoint, while the rest, including the intelligence team under Marantan, were all in civilian clothes in violation of checkpoint guidelines.

Roxas also disclosed that the first SUV where five of the slain men were riding sustained no less than 186 bullet holes, while the second SUV had around 50 bullet holes.

However, Roxas declined to speculate on the motives or the cause of the alleged firefight, saying that it will be up to the NBI to decide who were at fault and who would be criminally charged, if warranted.

The Commission on Human Rights is also conducting a separate investigation amid claims that the encounter was a rubout.

“The DILG and the PNP role is simply as a fact-finding body. We are wholeheartedly supporting the Department of Justice, the NBI and the CHR in their investigations and we will provide them with all our findings,” Roxas said. “I assure everyone of our full cooperation to find out the truth, as what I told President Aquino during our meeting.”

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