CAMP CRAME, Quezon City – The regional police chief and 23 other police officers of Calabarzon (Region IV A) has been relieved from his post over the questionable killing of 13 police officers, soldiers and civilians at a checkpoint in Atinoman, Quezon and the dawn arrest and killing of a man in Batangas whom news reports tagged as an alleged member of the Vic Siman group.
The relief came in the wake of findings of a police team and the National Bureau of Investigation indicating various violations and that there was no shootout at the Atimonan checkout which some claim to be a rubout and massacre. The NBI investigators also the excessive force in the killing of the 13 men in Atimonan, saying it was an “overkill.”
Instead there was excessive use of force, and 13 men in a two-vehicle convoy drove into an ambush by a joint police-military contingent in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6.
This is the conclusion of a fact-finding committee created by Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), to investigate the incident that killed an alleged jueteng lord along with three policemen, two airmen, and two intelligence agents who were disowned by the military.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II disclosed that President Aquino has lost confidence on Chief Supt. James Melad and other police officers in the region involved in the Atimonan killing and the arrest of Fernando “Pandoy” Morales, who died after allegedly fighting it out with arresting officers at 1:30 a.m. on Monday in San Juan, Batangas.
At a press briefing in Camp Crame, Roxas said Melad was removed from his post to give way to “impartial investigation into the series of killings in the region involving policemen,” according to TV5 and GMA reports
“Nawalan ng kumpiyansa ang Pangulo sa pamumuno ni General Melad. Quezon was in his command as well as Batangas. Para magkaroon ng malaya at hayag na imbestigasyon, minarapat na magkaroon ng pagbabago sa liderato,” he said
Roxas also cited the controversial January 6 incident in Atimonan, Quezon where 13 people were killed incuding police and military operatives in a supposed shootout.
Roxas said four more ranking Calabarzon police officers had been relieved besides Melad, even as he urged the ground commander in the Atimonan shooting on Sunday to cooperate with NBI probers.
Local police had said a warrant of arrest was being served against Morales in his residence when he allegedly resisted and fought it out with the policemen, leading to his death.
But Roxas wondered aloud how 20 arresting officers failed to subdue a lone man.
“Some of the questionable aspects including the serving of a warrant at 1:30 a.m.—and again how could properly trained policemen not contain the situation where they apparently had overwhelming force leading to the death of the arrestee?” Roxas said in the interview aired earlier over ANC.
Roxas later on Tuesday announced the relief of more officials of the PNP-Calabarzon region to give way to an impartial investigation into the series of killings in the region involving policemen.
Both Quezon and Batangas fall under the jurisdiction of PNP Region 4-A or Calabarzon.
Those who were relieved, aside from Melad, 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.
Last week, Roxas also announced the relief of the Quezon police provincial commander, the chief of police of Atimonan town and several others in connection with the Atimonan killings.
Roxas also turned over to the NBI an eight-page report of the PNP Fact-Finding Committee that was formed to look into the Atimonan shooting incident. The NBI has been designated by President Aquino as the sole investigating authority in connection with the case.
Roxas advised Supt. Hansel Marantan, who led the government ground forces that figured in the Atimonan shooting, to submit himself to the investigation process of the NBI.