POSTSCRIPT / July 16, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Espinosa’s killers enjoy protection?

MANY of us are disturbed by indications that Police Supt. Marvin Marcos and his CIDG team who gunned down Albuera (Leyte) Mayor Rolando Espinosa and another drug suspect last November are on their way to being cleared of homicide charges.

Marcos has been freed on bail and quickly called back to duty as chief of PNP-CIDG Region 12 – reportedly on orders from the top. Those who do not want to complicate their lives may prefer to keep quiet and step aside while the clearing of the police officers proceeds as ordained.

Marcos and his 18 men were initially accused of murder — later downgraded to homicide to enable them to post bail — for killing Espinosa, whom President Rodrigo Duterte had linked to the narcotics trade. Slain with him was Raul Yap, a drug suspect in the same jail.

The filing of murder charges was approved by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre after the National Bureau of Investigation under him found basis for indicting Marcos and his men from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of PNP Region 6.

Separately, the Senate had concluded after its own inquiry presided over by Sen. Ping Lacson, former director general of the Philippine National Police, that there was probable cause for a murder indictment.

But after President Duterte made known his sentiment, the justice department scaled down the charges to homicide on the ground that, as in an afterthought, the element of premeditation was absent.

Marcos’ being called back to duty this week after a four-month suspension revived questions over policemen being emboldened by promises of protection, reward and even pardon when they carry out Mr. Duterte’s orders to take down drug suspects who “resist” arrest.

Some senators have criticized the disregarding of their recommendation that murder charges be filed against the Marcos posse who came in the dead of night ostensibly to serve a search warrant, which in the first place they did not need for checking jail premises.

But the senators’ protests hardly registered, including the “put*ng *na”spat out by senator Lacson who had noticed during the Senate hearings the rogue cops’ cocky answers and their body language exuding confidence that they would be cleared eventually.

There was an early hint of a possible whitewash when Marcos, way back in December, was preventively suspended for the killing – and a solicitous President Duterte ordered him reinstated.

With the perceived impunity, what can senators, human rights advocates, conscientious objectors, lawyers’ groups, and other concerned sectors do? Nothing, it seems.

Objections are drowned out by the chorus of the justice secretary, PNP chief, Napolcom vice chair, presidential spokesman, trolls and bloggers, captive solons, and some media sectors seemingly reading from the same script for the eventual exoneration of Marcos et al.

Still, some questions refuse to go away: Why the top-level cover-up? What has Marcos got on his bosses?

• SAF-44 raps vs Aquino to clear air

EVERYBODY, including former President Noynoy Aquino, should welcome the filing of criminal charges against him arising from the massacre in 2015 by Moro fighters of 44 commandos of the PNP Special Action Force in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Instead of having a cloud hanging over his head while being mauled in media, Aquino and his co-accused would have a better chance of acquitting themselves in court where the rules are clearly laid out.

The Ombudsman found probable cause to indict Aquino for usurpation of authority as well as graft and corruption for allowing suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to play a “major role” in SAF planning and operations while keeping then acting PNP chief Leonardo Espina and then Interior Secretary Mar Roxas out of the loop.

Purisima and then SAF Director Getulio Napeñas Jr., the ground commander, will be indicted with Aquino. No charges were filed against Aquino while he was in office on the excuse that the president is immune from suit. And no one presented his Mamasapano bungling as an impeachable offense.

(This observer does not subscribe to the theory of presidential immunity for at least two reasons: [1] there is nothing in the Constitution granting such immunity, and [2] no one, even the president, is above the law that he is sworn to execute.)

Aquino knows a Mamasapano case was coming and is presumed to have prepared for it – as he is also presumed ready to answer charges on his misuse of Disbursement Acceleration Program funds, an action that the Supreme Court had ruled to be unconstitutional.

Among those awaiting the Mamasapano charges are the families of the SAF members who were massacred in a cornfield by fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other armed groups.

Among the questions that Aquino will have to answer are:

+ What role did Americans have in the planning and execution of Oplan Exodus aimed at neutralizing Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) and Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman?

+ Why did Aquino rely on suspended PNP chief Purisima and keep then acting PNP chief Espina and then Interior Secretary Roxas in the dark about Oplan Exodus?

+ Why was Aquino in the Mamasapano vicinity that day? Was it to micro-manage the operation to capture the targeted terrorists, one of whom (Marwan) had a $5-million reward on his head offered by the US government?

+ Why did he not order the military units in nearby areas to rush to the succor of the SAF commandoes being massacred in an open field and who were calling for help?

+ Was Aquino the one who gave the alleged order for military units to “Stand down!” when the cornered SAF commandos were radioing for help?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 16, 2017)

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