Calabarzon police chief washes hands of 'shootout'
'Si Marantan ang rumekta ng operation,' says Melad
MANILA, Philippines – Sacked Calabarzon police director Chief Supt. James Melad on Wednesday said it was Supt. Hansel Marantan who took care of the police operation in Atimonan, Quezon that led to the deaths of 13 men.
In a press briefing at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Melad admitted that he signed the case operational plan (coplan) that would have given the group of Marantan funding from the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC).
The coplan sought to neutralize the group of Vic Siman, an alleged operator of illegal numbers game "jueteng" in the region.
Melad, however, said he let Marantan handle the operations by himself after signing the coplan proposal, which was eventually disapproved by the PAOCC, led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
"Sa level ko, we endorsed it to the PAOCC. Iyung mga coplan kasi would need enough fundings," Melad said.
"I believe na siya (Marantan) iyung rumekta na upon my approval sa PAOCC," he added.
Melad said he approved the coplan, dubbed "Coplan Armado," because he found no reason to doubt its contents. He added he could not speculate if the police operation was illegitimate since he was not present when the gun battle erupted.
"I cannot comment kung anong nanagyari. Pati kayo, (media) rin wala kayong karapatan mag-comment. You only render speculations. We have an investigation. We leave it to the investigators to do their thing," he said.
Aside from Melad and Marantan, Supt. Glenn Dumlao, who headed the Special Concerns Task Group, also signed the coplan proposal.
The legitimacy of the January 6 operation in Barangay Lumutan is now being investigated by the NBI after doubts were raised over the intention of Marantan, who has been accused of being involved in jueteng operations in the region.
It has been alleged that Marantan set up the checkpoint in order to kill Siman, his group's alleged jueteng turf rival.
Melad was relieved from his post by President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday following yet another questionable police operation that led to the death of alleged Siman aide, Fernando "Pandoy" Morales, last Monday.
Other police officers relieved from their posts were Supt. Raul Tacaca, Chief Insp. Rodolfo Ama, Supt. Elpidio Ramirez, who is the acting chief of San Juan Police, and Batangas provincial director Supt. Rosauro Acio.
The sacked regional police chief refused to divulge the contents of the coplan proposal.
"I signed the coplan but I do not exactly know or memorize the contents of the coplan," he said.
He also lamented the leakage of the supposed result of the PNP fact-finding investigation which suggested that the Atimonan clash was a case of an ambush.
"Iyung sinassabi na fact-finding report, if there was a leak, that is I believe a case of irresponsibility on those people holding this report," he said.
Asked to react on his relief, Melad said: "I defer to the wisdom of the President. Gusto rin natin na maklaro ang issue. We made ourselves available. We can be present anytime we are called in this investigation."