MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 2:10 P.M.) Senator Panfilo Lacson let loose Thursday with President Rodrigo Duterte’s most used expletive to describe the order to return to active duty the police officer who was in command of the operation that led to the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. late last year.
“In sum, there is a phrase to describe this whole damn thing: Put*ng I*a!” Lacson said in a message reacting to Duterte’s statement at the 26th anniversary of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology the day before.
“Sabi ko ibalik ninyo sa trabaho ‘yang mama na ‘yan (I said reinstate that man in the police force),” Duterte said.
Police Supt. Marvin Wynn Marcos, who commanded the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Region 8, was originally charged with murder with 16 other officers for the deaths of Espinosa and Raul Yap, who were both inmates at the Baybay City Sub-Provincial Jail.
The CIDG8 claimed the two supposedly shot it out inside their cells when officers tried to serve search warrants on them last November but the Senate, in an inquiry co-chaired by Lacson, and the National Bureau of Investigation concluded what happened was a rubout.
Lacson clarified that Marcos was not being reinstated but being returned to duty “after serving his four-month suspension order incorporated in a ‘slap-on-the-wrist’ administrative penalty” imposed by the Internal Affairs Service with the approval of Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa.
He also said the IAS ruling “effectively disregarded the conspiracy angle” by concluding that “Marcos was not physically present when the raiding team killed Espinosa and Raul Yap, but outside supervising the operation.”
Other senators also weighed in on the issue, criticizing Duterte.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV suggested a sinister reason why Duterte “not only set the murderers free, he now gave back their badges and guns so they could murder again with impunity.”
He claimed this was because “Duterte fears that these policemen might rat out on him for what they know about his involvement in the Espinosa murder.”
He said it was Duterte who had Marcos and his men assigned to CIDG8 and then overruled Dela Rosa’s order relieving them “for being implicated by Espinosa in the illegal drug trade and, at the same time, not having the required schooling to be assigned at CIDG.”
“A few weeks after, Espinosa ended up getting murdered by Marcos’ group,” he said.
Senator Grace Poe, noting that downgrading the murder charges against the police officers to homicide was already “questionable,” said “it cannot be denied that there is probable cause that accused Marcos committed the crime. Therefore, his reinstatement to active duty may further tarnish the PNP as an institution that should value and uphold the rule of law in the performance of duty.”
Poe also worried that restoring Marcos to active duty “may just encourage a culture of impunity among the ranks” as she stressed the PNP can “carry out its duties in protecting our people without somebody like Marcos and his cohorts.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros accused Duterte of “a clear attempt to obstruct the course of justice” and “tacit approval of extrajudicial killings in the country.”
“This is outright obstruction of justice from the highest level of governance and executive promotion of extrajudicial killings,” she said. “For those who still deny that there are state-sanctioned killings, here is damning proof.”
“The Senate and even the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) concluded that the death of Espinosa is a case of extrajudicial killing. How can President Duterte dismiss those findings? For the President to order the reinstatement of Marcos absolves him and his men of any wrongdoing,” Hontiveros said.
She also blasted Dela Rosa for backing Duterte’s position, saying she expected “better thinking” from him.
“We let a murderer have a free pass and go back to the uniformed service because his suspension is a waste of money? Let me remind my mistah and old friend, the PNP Chief, that the real criminal waste of taxpayers’ money (is) bad cops and injustices,” she said.
Earlier, Hontiveros called Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II a “flip-flop king” for approving the downgrading of the charges against Marcos and the CIDG8 personnel.
Senator Francis Pangilinan found Duterte’s order “quite disturbing” and hoped “the members of the Senate majority who signed the committee report will close ranks and fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance on the executive branch.”
De Lima weighs in
For Sen. Leila de Lima, detained on nonbailable drug-related charges that she describes as political persection the new of Marcos’ reinstatement “no longer shocks me.”
To De Lima, “this is just part of Duterte’s commitment earlier made that Marcos will not only be pardoned and reinstated in the service, but he will also be promoted. That was clear from Day 1. The men behind the killing of Mayor Espinosa were just following his orders, according to the President.”
What is shocking to the former Justice secretary and Commission on Human Rights chair, though, “is the obvious and inescapable conclusion that these actions by Duterte have been adopted with the illegitimate purpose of affording criminals immunity. International law doctrine and jurisprudence consider these actions as clear indicators of “fraudulent administration of justice”.
De Lima continued: “There is assurance of executive clemency, downgrading of offense charged to allow the posting of bail, and now reinstatement in the service. Mga hakbang ito upang gawing inutil ang ating mga proseso ng pag-iimbestiga, paglilitis, at pagpapanagot sa kasalanan sa krimeng naganap. These are inconsistent with the State’s duty to punish murder as both a crime under international law and a gross violation of human rights. It undermines the rights of the victim and/or his family to effective remedy, to be heard by independent and impartial tribunal, and to know the truth.”