MANILA, Philippines --- President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to file multiple murder charges against police and military personnel involved in the Jan. 6 Atimonan incident wherein 13 individuals were summarily shot dead.
In a press briefing yesterday, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President has accepted in full the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the Atimonan incident which was concluded as a rubout and not a shootout.
“After a thorough review of the NBI Executive Report on the incident in Atimonan, Quezon, the President has accepted its findings in full. He has directed Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima to file the appropriate criminal and administrative charges against Hansel Marantan, James Andres Melad, and others,” Valte said.
“The recommendation is for multiple murder charges,” she said.
“From the very start, the President had assured the public of a thorough investigation which would be the basis for holding to account those found culpable in this incident,” Valte said.
Valte noted that in the Executive Summary, it was stated that: “Ultimately, the NBI probe reached the conclusion that no shootout occurred, thus validating the initial result of the PNP Fact-finding Committee. The probe findings also showed that the victims were summarily executed and all indications point to a rubout.”
The Palace official, meanwhile, belied speculations that the timing of the Palace’s release of Aquino’s review on the NBI Executive Report was meant to divert the public’s attention from the fighting in Sabah.
Valte said they are just making good with their commitment to release the result of the review as soon as the President is finished with the review.
She also said this development on the Atimonan incident signifies that the Aquino administration would not hesitate to fully enforce the law against anybody who would instigate similar criminal and heinous acts.
President Aquino had ordered the NBI as the sole investigative body on the Atimonan incident. The incident was initially claimed by the police as a “shootout” but was later on ruled out by Lima as a rubout.
The NBI earlier recommended the filing of multiple murder charges against 21 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel lead by Supt. Hansel Marantan and 14 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel led by Lt. Col. Monico Abang in connection with the Atimonan checkpoint rubout last Jan 6.
After a thorough investigation, and based on physical and documentary evidence, De Lima said there was no indication that the 13 victims, led by alleged jueteng operator Victor Siman, were engaged in a shootout.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) officials said they respect the recommendation made by the DOJ that murder charges be filed against police and military personnel involved in the January 6 bloodbath in Atimonan, Quezon.
Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos, the AFP spokesman, said: “The AFP fully trusts our justice system and we respect and abide by the decision that has been made.”
He added that AFP personalities involved “will be subjected to military justice system so in this connection, appropriate charges will be filed against them with observance to the due process.”
PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo said Malacanang’s approval of the DOJ recommendation did not come as a surprise to the PNP leadership.
Cerbo said findings of the PNP inquiry on the incident were almost the same as the conclusion made by the DOJ. (With reports from Leonard D. Postrado and Elena L. Aben)