MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission on Friday said it gave P100,000 for intelligence gathering of “Coplan Armado”, the case operational plan against the alleged Vic Siman gun-for-hire group.
PAOCC executive director Chief Superintendent Reginald Villasanta went to the National Bureau of Investigation office in Manila to shed light on the January 6 incident in Atimonan, Quezon that left all 13 men onboard 2 vehicles dead.
In a statement, Villasanta reiterated the operation in Atimonan did not have the go-signal of the PAOCC, which is under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
Villasanta, however, admitted the PAOCC gave P100,000 to the proponents of the operation but only for intelligence gathering purposes.
“The coplan was not approved. Lack of documentation to properly assess viability and feasibility of operation such as memo directive from mother unit, timetable and information we needed regarding agents involved and the subjects of investigation,” he said.
“Bilang paglilinaw po, ang binigay na pondo ay para lang gamitin nila sa pagkalap ng impormasyon upang mapagtibay ang coplan. Allow me to stress a very important distinction here. The release approved was only intelligence purposes. It was not intended for operations.”
Villasanta said the PAOCC is mandated to provide support to law enforcement agencies in terms of technical, legal and financial assistance to sustain government efforts against organized armed groups.
He said the commission makes decisions at the policy level and is not designed to be involved in actual operations.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said Villasanta will meet with NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas to discuss "Coplan Armado" which sought to neutralize the group of Vic Siman, an alleged jueteng operator in the Calabarzon region.
Siman was one of the 13 men killed in the January 6 Atimonan bloodbath.
The coplan was signed by Supt. Hansel Marantan, an intelligence officer being pointed as the brains behind the operation which some said was a rubout. It has been alleged that Marantan was engaged in jueteng turf rivalry with Siman.
Supt. Glenn Dumlao, who headed the Special Concerns Task Group; and Calabarzon police director Chief Supt. James Melad also signed the coplan.
Melad earlier said the operation was approved by the PAOCC and that only the funding was thumbed down.
De Lima on Thursday said she is certain that what happened on January 6 was "definitely not a shootout." This, after two eye witnesses who participated in the re-enactment of the incident said that what happened was a rub-out.
According to the witnesses, the policemen and soldiers suddenly pulled out the checkpoint signboards and blocked Maharlika Highway with a military truck, to the surprise of the 13 men on board two Mitsubishi Montero sports utility vehicles (SUVs).
The officers then flagged down the 2 vehicles and a man in civilian clothes, along with 4 uniformed soldiers, approached the SUVs. Finding the doors locked, the man in civilian clothes ordered the passengers to come out.
When they refused, the man then gave the order to shoot the vehicles.
Based on the re-enactment, the initial strafing of the vehicles took no less than 20 seconds. The man in civilian clothes then ordered the law enforcers to cease fire.
However, one of the men on the first SUV at the driver's side fired a shot at the police officers, prompting a second volley of shots from the law enforcers.
They said one of the men, allegedly Tirso Lontok, then emerged from the SUV with his arms already raised, showing that he was ready to surrender.
However, two law enforcers – one in uniform and the other in civilian clothes – still shot Lontok at close range.
Soldiers and cops already have lawyers
The Justice secretary said she respects the move of the soldiers and policemen to let their lawyers deal with the NBI investigators.
"Halos wala ng nagsalita sa mga enlisted men. Ang mga abugado ini-insist na nagbigay na ito sa PNP fact-finding team. Magbibigay na lang daw sila ng statement kapag nakita nila ang report ng PNP," she said.
"I don't blame them. Siyempre, they also want to be sure na protektado ang kanilang mga karapatan. They should remember na this is just an investigation stage. Hindi pa ito preliminary investigation, lalong hindi pa ito trial."
De Lima said the NBI has yet to decide whether to summon anew the soldiers and policemen involved in the January 6 incident.
"I'm not sure kung balak nilang tatawagin sila ulit o huwag na lang at baka sa preliminary investigation na lang siguro nila sagutin, based on the pieces of evidence," she said.