SC upholds DOJ investigation on Atimonan Massacre: Issue of De Lima bias now moot
The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed as moot a petition questioning the validity of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) preliminary investigation into the multiple murder case filed against Police Supt. Hansel Marantan in connection with the so-called Atimonan Massacre in 2013.
In a recent 24-page decision, the SC 3rd Division denied Marantan’s petition for certiorari and prohibition assailing the DOJ’s jurisdiction on the ground of lack of impartiality and independence.
Marantan pleaded for his case to be transferred to the Office of the Ombudsman, citing public statements by then-DOJ Secretary (now-Senator) Leila de Lima that allegedly prejudiced his right to due process.
However, the SC said the petition was moot because DOJ prosecutors had already brought his case to the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) for a full-blown trial.
“Here, an information against petitioner has already been filed before the Regional Trial Court. Consequently, whether the case should be dismissed, or whether petitioner should be acquitted or convicted, is for the trial court to determine,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
“Resolving whether public respondent Department of Justice should have inhibited from conducting the preliminary investigation and forwarded the case records to the Office of the Ombudsman would be of no practical use and value here,” it added.
Marantan led the team of policemen and soldiers that fired upon a convoy of two vehicles on January 6, 2013, and killed 13 people.
The mission commander claimed it was a legitimate operation against the group of suspected jueteng lord Vic Siman, but the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) concluded it was a rubout after finding no evidence of an exchange of gunfire.
On February 28, 2017, Manila RTC Branch 34 Judge Liwliwa Hidalgo-Bucu allowed Marantan and his coaccused policemen to each post a P300,000 bail after finding that the evidence was not strong enough to keep them detained pending their trial. The Court of Appeals (CA) last year upheld the order.