MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II washed his hands Wednesday of the resolution downgrading the charges filed against police officers for last year’s killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. from murder to homicide.
“I did not have any hand in the drafting of the resolution being referred to by some Senators,” Aguirre said in a statement. “I was not the one who resolved the matter. I was not the one who wrote it. I was not the one who signed it.”
Aguirre came under fire from senators who conducted an investigation soon after Espinosa’s death November last year and recommended the filing of murder charges against the officers of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Eastern Visayas involved.
Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said Aguirre would appear should the Senate decide to hold an inquiry into the downgrading of the charges.
The 19 CIDG officers — Superintendent Marvin Marcos, Senior Inspector Deogracia Pedong Diaz III, Chief Inspector Calixto Canillas Jr., Inspector Lucresito Candelosas, Senior Police Officers 2 Benjamin Dacallos and Antonio Docil, SPO 1 Mark Christian Cadilo, Police Office 3 Norman Abellanosa, POs 2 John Ruel Doculan and Jaime Bacsal, PO1 Jerlan Cabiyaan, Superintendent Santi Noel Matira, Chief Inspector Leo Daio Laraga, SPO4 Melvin Caboyit, PO3 Johnny Abuda Ibanez, Senior Inspector Fritz Bioco Blanco, SPO4 Juanito Duarte, PO2 Lloyd Ortiguesa and PO1 Bernard Orpilla — have been released on bail.
Following Espinosa’s death, the CIDG unit claimed Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap, who was in another cell, were killed separately when they tried to shoot it out with the law enforcers serving search warrants against them.
Despite the findings of the Senate as well as the Philippine National Police itself, President Rodrigo Duterte has said he believed the CIDG version and promised the accused officers would not be jailed or, if found guilty, could count on a full pardon.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said she will ask the Senate to invite Aguirre to explain the downgrading of the charges.
“This may be the last straw for many of us. We cannot allow Secretary Aguirre to continue to toy around with our justice system. Enough’s enough,” she said in a statement.
For his part, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a former Justice secretary, said: “This is a very disappointing development insofar as the ability of the government to prevent and prosecute police abuses and irregularities is concerned.”
“Secretary Aguirre told us under oath here in the Senate that he himself considers the killing as premeditated. He even pointed out that the conduct of Espinosa’s arrest was not consistent with the PNP’s procedures,” Drilon said in statement.
He noted that it was even Aguirre who said that it was “unusual” that a warrant was obtained one week after receiving information that there was a weapon inside Espinosa’s cell and had also labeled the operation “overkill.”