MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz believes the shooting incident in Atimonan, Quezon that killed 13 people may have been a turf war over the illegal numbers game jueteng or over jueteng kickbacks.
Cruz said jueteng lords can be very territorial, especially in Central Luzon, which he called the "Vatican of Jueteng."
He also admitted to hearing the name of Supt. Hansel Marantan as among those involved in jueteng operations. Marantan of the Quezon police regional intelligence office allegedly has a brother who operates a small town lottery in Calamba.
Marantan was wounded during the alleged encounter in Quezon province Sunday.
"Opo, nababanggit din po yan, kaya lang hindi gasino matingkad ang pangalan pagkat wala pa masyado sa taas - parang di pa gaanong pamosong masasabi," Cruz told dzMM.
The prelate also described victim Vic Siman as being either third or fourth in the hierarchy of jueteng personalities in the region.
He also implicated Tirso Lontoc, one of the 13 victims in the alleged shootout, as being involved in jueteng operations. Lontoc is allegedly a relative of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.
"Opo, naririnig po yan bagaman wala sa listahan, [kasama ng] matataas, nandon ang pangalan na iyan," Cruz said.
Jueteng angle probed
Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police, has ordered an investigation into allegations that the killing of 13 people in Atimonan was due to a turf war over jueteng.
Purisima said a fact-finding team, led by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Deputy Chief Senior Supt. Federico Castro, has been sent to Quezon to shed light into the shooting incident where 3 Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) policemen and a soldier were killed.
Some of the relatives of the slain suspects, initially tagged as belonging to the Siman gun-for-hire group, have appealed for an investigation into the incident.
They believe that the incident was a rubout.
"Iyun ay pinapa-validate natin sa mga intelligence operatives tungkol sa involvement nitong si Siman at saka iyung supposed to be kapatid ni Marantan na nagpapatakbo sa bookies," Purisima told dZMM.
The legitimacy of the operation raised further doubts after another report revealed that some P100 million allegedly carried by the slain men went missing.
Marantan was the only injured among the policemen manning the checkpoint.
The shooting occurred after men on board two sports utility vehicles refused to be subjected to inspection and opened fire at a joint police and military checkpoint along Maharlika Highway in Barangay Lumutan.
Eleven of the suspects were killed on the spot, while 2 others were declared dead on arrival at a hospital.
The fatalities were identified as:
1. Victorino Siman Atienza
2. Gerry Ancero Siman
3. Conrado Decillo
4. Leonardo Catapang Marasigan
5. Victor Garcia Gonzales
6. Supt. Alfredo Perez Consemino, chief of operations of Police Regional Office - Mimaropa
7. Staff Sgt. Armando Aranda Lescano
8. SPO1 Gruet Mantuano
9. PO1 Jeffrey Valdez
10. Tirso Lontoc
11. Maximo Manalastas Pelay
12. Jimbeam Dyico Justiniani
13. Paul Arcedillo Quiohilag
At least 14 firearms were retrieved from the slain suspects. Out of the seized firearms, only one turned out to be unregistered.
Police said they were monitoring the members of the alleged gun-for-hire group for some time.
They had received a tip the group will pass through Atimonan after a meeting in Camarines Norte. The Quezon Police said this intelligence report prompted them and the military to set up a checkpoint.
Purisima said the fact-finding team will determine all the circumstances surrounding the police operation, which the Quezon Provincial Police claimed to be legitimate. He also quelled fears of a whitewash in the probe.
"Iyung ibang detalye, iyun ang kailangan nating alamin kung paano sila nagkaroon ng impormasyon na ganoon, kung saang lugar ang pinangyarihan at kung ano yung mga actions ng kada-individual doon sa pagche-checkpoint na iyon," Purisima told dzMM.
"Ang SOP natin, as of now, we are holding the regional directors and provincial directors responsible for their men. They should be available for questioning. Kapag nagkaroon na ng duda, ire-restrict na natin ang lahat ng personnel involved," he added.
Purisima said the team also includes Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) personnel who will examine the bullets at the crime scene.
He admitted that the crime scene may have been manipulated if the incident was indeed a rubout, but said "no crime is perfect."
Meanwhile, Purisima said Consemino has no criminal record. Likewise, Lescano, an Air Force officer, has no criminal record.