In an Omnibus Resolution dated 30 August 2013, the investigating panel of the Department of Justice resolved the criminal complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the private complainants against officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine Army (AFP-PA), and PNP-Quezon Crime Laboratory, with respect to the shooting incident that transpired on 06 January 2013 in the town of Atimonan, Quezon, and claimed the lives of thirteen (13) persons, including VICTOR R. SIMAN. The Panel recommended the following actions:
A. The filing of the following charges:
1. MULTIPLE MURDER against Respondents Police Officers PSupt. HANSEL MARANTAN, PSupt. RAMON BALAUAG, PCInsp. GRANT GOLLOD, PSInsp. JOHN PAOLO CARRACEDO; PSInsp. TIMOTEO ORIG; SP03 JOSELITO DE GUZMAN; SPO1 CARLO CATAQUIZ; SPO1 ARTURO SARMIENTO; P03 EDUARDO ORONAN; P02 NELSON INDAL; P02 AL BHAZAR JAILANI; P01 WRYAN SARDEA; and P01 RODEL TALENTO, a.k.a. RODEL TOLENTINO; and
2. OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE against Respondents Police Officer PSInsp. JOHN PAOLO CARRACEDO and Army Officer Lt. RICO. TAGURE.
B. The dismissal of the following complaints for lack or insufficiency of evidence:
1. MULTIPLE MURDER against Respondents Police Officer PCSupt. JAMES ANIDRES MELAD, and Army Officers/Personnel LTC. MONICO ABANG; Cpt. ERWIN MACALINAO; Lt. RICO TAGURE; Cpl. ROGELIO TEJARES; PFC LUCKY JAY BORJA; PFC MICHAEL FRANCO; PFC GILM GALLEGO; PFC MELVIN LUMALANG; PFC ALVIN ROQUE PABON; Pvt. EMERGIN BARRETE; and Pvt. MARC ZALDY DOCDOC;
2. OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE against Respondents PNP-Quezon Crime Laboratory Personnel PCInsp. ZAIDE F. ABRERA; Plnsp. DICKSON M. MERCADO; SPO1 MELDY A. AROJO; SPO1 ANALIZA BURCELANGO; P03 NESTOR M. ABUAN; P03 ARCHIE V. AVILA; and P02 BAYANI C. GONZALES.
Regarding the charge for MURDER, the Panel, after an assiduous evaluation of the evidence submitted by both parties, found that all the essential elements of the crime of murder are present. Discussing the presence of the elements of the crime, the Panel ruled that the Certificates of Death of all 13 victims are more than sufficient to establish the fact of their death, apart from the fact that Respondents themselves categorically admit the same; that the evidence is clear that respondents PNP and AFP personnel, with the exception of Respondent MELAD (who was not at the scene during the incident), fired upon the victims who were on board two (2) Mitsubishi Monteros, and that the gunshot wounds they sustained caused their death; and that the acts of respondents-PNP, save for Respondent MELAD, are considered independent but in concert with each other.
The Panel resolved that the Respondents PNP personnel, except for Respondent MELAD, conspired and confederated with each other to eliminate the victims. The presence of conspiracy among the respondents-PNP personnel is shown by the following:
(1) Respondent MARANTAN, the PNP official in command of the checkpoint operation, was certain about the identities of the occupants of the two Monteros, whose movements he has been monitoring the day before the incident;
(2) The plan to eliminate the group of Vic Siman became apparent when Respondent MARANTAN, together with Respondents GOLLOD and BALAUAG, put up a three-layered checkpoint, which was highly irregular and non-conforming to common and established procedures on checkpoints. The Panel noted that the three layers of the checkpoint were placed at a distance of more or less three hundred meters (300) from each other, and the second layer was actually manned by uniformed military, instead of PNP personnel;
(3) Respondents MARANTAN and BALAUAG purposely sought the help and support of the respondents-AFP personnel due to Respondent MARANTAN's alleged fear of being outnumbered;
(4) The results of the forensic examinations and investigations which the NBI conducted are telling, viz., the results of forensic and chemical examinations of the Monteros show that there was no possibility that the occupants of the Monteros could have fired from within the vehicle due to the complete absence of burns, smudges, and soot in the interiors; the gunshots came from outside the vehicles as all eight (8) exit points found on the first Montero tested negative for gun powder residue, which also means that the gunshots preceding these exit points did not come from inside the said vehicle; and the NBI also submitted credible evidence proving that some of the victims were shot at close range, thereby negating the version of the police that there was a legitimate firefight;
(5) Respondent BALAUAG, as depicted in the photos, is seen actively approaching the Monteros while holding on to his rifle. In fact, he is seen going around the cadavers of the victims and the Monteros, obviously mindful of Respondent CARRACEDO's getting of the victims' firearms, firing them in the air, and returning them to the dead bodies. This illustrates his acquiescence and the unity in purpose among Respondents MARANTAN, GOLLOD, and CARRACEDO. As an officer of the police force, and a superior officer at that, Respondent BALAUAG was duty-bound to report anomalies that come to his attention, especially what he personally witnessed. The Panel emphasized that the duty to report irregularities similarly applies to non-commissioned police officers. The claim of Respondent BALAUAG and his men that they did not fire their firearms during the subject incident is belied by the results of the ballistic examinations which show that some of the fire bullets recovered from the crime scene matched the issued firearms of Respondents SARDEA and TALENTO;
(6) Respondent GOLLOD's knowledge and participation in the conspiracy was evident by the following facts - he was aware of the plan to eliminate the group of Vic Siman as conceived by Respondent MARANTAN by establishing up the layered checkpoints in order to control the movement of vehicle passing through the Maharlika Highway, and specifically, to create a death trap, and minimize witnesses; he covered his uniform PNP T-shirt with a tactical vest instead of the general office attire uniform; he also did not report the actuations of Respondent CARRACEDO in getting the firearms of the victims and firing them to make it appear that there was a shootout; photographs submitted in this case show that he had in his possession several firearms which were not submitted to the crime laboratory for forensic examinations;
(7) The NBI ballistician, in her report, found that a significant number of cartridges collated from the crime scene did not match with the firearms submitted for purposes of forensic examination by the police, the military, and those taken from the victims;
(8) The narration of PSupt. JERRY VALEROSO that he heard victim CONSEMINO say "Ano yun?" while they were conversing on the phone, which was followed by the ticking sound of metal hitting glass, shows that the victims were caught by surprise when they were fired upon at the checkpoint;
(9) It appears from the narrations of the witnesses and the respondents that the Monteros were parked parallel to the official vehicles used in the checkpoints. The Panel emphasized, however, that the vehicles of the police operatives where they allegedly sought cover were unharmed. There was no marking that the said vehicles were hit by any bullet or any indication that it was involved in a gunfire;
(10) With regard to Respondent MELAD, the evidence submitted failed to establish his participation in the conspiracy with the respondents in killing the victims. Respondent MELAD was not present during the shooting incident. He was only informed by Respondent MARANTAN that a shooting incident transpired in the vicinity of Atimonan, Quezon. In relation to said Information, he proceeded to the area, and he informed his superiors about the shooting incident. The Panel also found that the claim that Respondent MELAD is a signatory of the Coplan is not tantamount to his knowledge regarding the plan of the other respondents to kill the victims. From the records, it is apparent that he has no knowledge regarding the identity of the targets of the checkpoints. The concealment of the identities of the targets is a manifestation that Respondent MARANTAN did not want Respondent MELAD to know about their, operation.
The Panel also ruled that the evidence at hand did not indicate that the Respondents-AFP personnel were part of the conspiracy to eliminate the victims. As exhaustively discussed in the Omnibus Resolution, the participation of the Respondents-AFP personnel in the said incident does not indicate any overt act to justify that they are in conspiracy with Respondents-PNP. In fact, Respondents-APP were surprised and bewildered when, after the shooting incident, Respondent CARRACEDO started taking the firearms of the victims and firing them into the air or at different directions. The acts of Respondents- AFP in firing at the victims during the incident were merely in support when police officers had begun firing at the Monteros. It must be stressed that Respondents-AFP were contacted in order to support the operation of the Respondents-PNP. Their acts, as well as their participation, in the operation were dictated by the Respondents-PNP. The only participation given to them is to be present and visible on the checkpoints, and support Respondents-PNP to implement said checkpoints. Their actions cannot be considered as an approval of the Respondents-PNP's intent to kill the victims. In the instant case, the acts of Respondents-AFP in firing on the Monteros were ordered by Respondents- PNP. As a support group in the performance of their duty, they acceded. However, as to the plan to eliminate the victims from the very start, the evidence presented fails to establish it. The Panel noted that if the Respondents-AFP were in conspiracy with the police elements, they could have just easily kept to themselves what Respondent CARRACEDO did. Their electing to reveal the irregularity indicates a clear conscience on the part of the Respondents-AFP personnel. Further, Lt. Col. ABANG made a warning that the evidence should not be touched by the police officers.
The Panel also pointed out that the killing was attended by the qualifying circumstances of evident premeditation, taking advantage of superior strength, treachery, and with the aid of armed men. In determining the presence of these qualifying circumstances, the Panel observed that the circumstance of evident premeditation was shown by the following, to wit, (1) Respondents-PNP personnel's deliberately putting up of the highly suspicious and irregular three-layered checkpoint, which ensured that they will not miss out on their subjects, that no outside will witness the incident, and so that the second layer of the checkpoint is amply alerted before the convoy reaches them; and (2) Respondent MARANTAN has been monitoring the movements of the convoy the day before the incident happened. Treachery was present in this case when respondents employed the checkpoint as a means to execute the crime of murder giving the victims no opportunity to defend themselves. In furtherance, Respondents-PNP personnel capitalized on the soldiers' capabilities and resources, by ensuring their presence at the checkpoint operation. The sheer number of bullets that Respondents fired indicates that the police took advantage of their superior strength in terms of firearms and manpower.
With respect to the charge for OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE against the Personnel of Quezon Province Crime Laboratory Office, the Panel ruled that mere withdrawal of cooperation in an investigation being conducted by a law enforcement agency of the government, without any patent intention to impair the verity, authenticity, legibility, availability, or admissibility of any record, document, or object considered as evidence, does not amount to obstruction of justice. Records show that the Crime Laboratory submitted the pieces of evidence they collated from the crime scene comprising of the spent shells of different calibers, fired bullets, the victims' clothes, the two Monteros, as well as the firearms that were surrendered to them. Further, the withdrawal of the Crime Laboratory Personnel was mandated by the orders of their superiors. For that reason, the Personnel of the Crime Laboratory Office must first seek clearance from their Regional Chief before cooperating with the investigation. Thus, there was no intent on their part to obstruct the delivery of justice and/or prevent the investigation of the instant case to proceed, as they were merely following orders.
In charging Respondent CARRACEDO for obstruction of evidence, the NBI submitted that he tampered with or altered the crime scene when he wilfully and deliberately fired the firearms of the dead victims in the air or in different directions, and thereafter returned to which body they got them. However, the Panel considered Respondent CARRACEDO's act as a further manifestation of the Respondent-PNP's common plan and design to summarily eliminate the victims. Hence, the Panel found Respondent CARRACEDO to have violated paragraph 1, in relation to paragraph 2 of Presidential Decree 1829.
As regards Respondent TAGURE, the NBI posited that his act of breaking the glass windows of the two Monteros, and opening the first Montero's door upon the orders of Respondent CARRACEDO, made him a principal by indispensable cooperation, in the crime of obstruction of justice, considering that CARRACEDO would not have been able to do what he did, had it not for Respondent TAGURE's breaking of the glass windows.
Pursuant to said findings, the DOJ Panel recommended that the corresponding Informations be filed against the respondents. Said Informations were filed this morning with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gumaca, Quezon.