Philippine police, troops accused of gambling massacre

Philippine authorities said on Wednesday that dozens of police and military personnel would be charged with murder for "summarily executing" 13 people in a gambling turf war.

The accused police initially reported those slain in a rural town about three hours's drive from Manila in January were members of a criminal gang who engaged them in a gunbattle after ramming through a security road block.

But after media reports showed that among those killed was a local illegal gambling lord, as well as five police and military officers who were protecting him, President Benigno Aquino ordered an investigation.

"The victims were summarily executed and all indications point to a rubout (slang for execution)," said Aquino's spokeswoman, Abigail Valte, quoting a 64-page report by the justice department recommending the charges.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said 21 police officers and 14 members of a military uni t, who are currently in custody, conspired to eliminate Vic Siman, the slain head of a lottery racket known as jueteng.

Jueteng is an underground lottery known to generate many millions of dollars that are often used to finance campaigns by corrupt local politicians, who are known to control private armies or employ policemen as personal bodyguards.

De Lima said the ambush was planned and led by Superintendent Hansel Marantan, a senior police officer who was protecting a local rival of Siman.

"The apparent objective of the operation was to kill all the victims. The checkpoint (was set up) to kill Vic Siman and company. There was no shoot-out," she told reporters.

"Some of the victims were already slumped on the ground or were surrendering when still fired upon by operatives."

De Lima said the accused police and military officers also tampered with the crime scene and conspired to cover up the crime.

The authorities did not say when the accused would be form ally charged. Court cases regularly take many years to go through the country's over-burdened justice system.

Corruption has long been a major problem in the Philippines, including in the police and armed forces, but the massacre still shocked the country with the incident dominating the national media.

The killings came after 58 people died in 2009 in a similarly well-planned massacre that was blamed on a powerful Muslim clan that was feuding with another political family.

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