[Editorials of The Connection] Jueteng’s threat to poll safety

 

 

A gruesome shootout (or was it a rubout?) that befell 13 men at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6 greeted the new year not as a firecracker-related incident, but as a reflection of how Filipino authorities are experiencing difficulties in curbing jueteng.

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Slain Air Force sgt Armando Lescano: From peacekeeping to jueteng back home?

 

MATAAS NA KAHOY, BATANGAS – For investigating policemen, S/Sgt. Armando Lescano was a member of a criminal group with alleged links to jueteng.

But for his surviving daughters and kin in this town, the 45-year-old member of the Philippine Air Force who’s stationed at nearby Fernando Air Base was just an ordinary security escort who unfortunately got ambushed while providing services for his client in the afternoon of January 6.

“What we’re after is justice. Because we know our father was a good man. He only wanted what’s best for his family. But the allegations that he was a (gang) member were totally wrong because we know him more than anybody else,” said Lescano’s tearful daughter Eloisa during the first day of her father’s wake in Barangay Santol here on January 8.

“It really hurts on our part that he already died and yet they keep on wrongfully accusing him and it’s just too easy for them (policemen) to tell something bad about him.”

Eloisa’s younger sister Aiden Lescano chided the police officers who killed his pa, along with 12 other alleged criminals saying, “They were shot dead like a pig.”

“What we want is justice. Our father is not a gang member. If he was there, he’s only providing a security (services) but he’s not a gang member,” she added.

Lescano was recently part of the 115-person 16th peacekeeping force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Liberia.

The family, however, refused to elaborate as to whom the slain PAF soldier was providing security for on the day they were killed by a group of policemen manning the checkpoint. They were also clueless as to why Lescano was in Atimonan, Quezon on that day.

Lescano, who served as PAF soldier for 25 years, got killed along with 12 other alleged members of a criminal group (two policemen and another a fellow PAF soldier) after they reportedly did not stop on a police-military checkpoint near the boundary of Plaridel and Atimonan towns in Quezon and they allegedly fired on the authorities, resulting to an exchange of gunfire.

President Aquino ordered the National Bureau of Investigation and the AFP to investigate the incident, alleged by some as a rubout given 184 bullet holes found in the victims’ vehicles. Police and military authorities claimed an encounter ensued, and that Supt. Hansel Marantan, an intelligence officer of the Quezon police, got wounded during the “gun battle”.

Lescano’s kin likewise denied the allegations linking him and the other slain suspects to jueteng and gun-for-hire as reported by police authorities in past media interviews.

They however believe that Lescano and his other companions were not killed in a shootout but rather “ambushed” by policemen manning the checkpoint on that day.

“They are professional people. Why would they have the intention to shoot their fellow policemen? It’s also impossible that they would fight that nobody from the other camp got hurt. Why were there no people killed on the other side but nobody got out alive on my papa’s side,” Eloisa said.

Police authorities earlier told the media that one of those killed namely Victorino Atienza, Jr. was a known “jueteng operator” and “godfather of small town lottery (STL) bookies in Batangas and Laguna provinces,” but the family has denied this.

PNP Director General Alan Purisima downplayed speculations that the 13 alleged slain criminals were victims of summary execution or rubout.

Lescano’s family said they will file appropriate charges against the policemen involved in the alleged rubout, joining the clamor for justice for Lescano and his companions.