POSTSCRIPT / June 22, 2017 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Duterte ordered slay raps lowered?

WAS Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre instructed or — like “Islamic State-inspired” Mautes — simply inspired by President Rodrigo Duterte to downgrade to homicide the murder charges filed against 19 police officers who had killed a Leyte mayor linked to drug trafficking?

Aguirre approved the lowering of the charges to homicide, a lighter and bailable crime, against policemen led by Supt. Marvin Marcos accused of executing Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and another suspect detained in Baybay, Leyte, in November last year.

The downgrading laid the legal basis for the release, as promised, of Marcos and his co-accused. After two months of detention, they were set free this week on P40,000 bail each for the double homicide.

Their release hewed to a pledge of President Duterte that he would not abandon policemen who obey his orders to neutralize drug traffickers.

This President is daring enough to make pre-conviction promises of pardons. (How can one pardon a man still on trial?) Is he ready to take bolder action, bordering on interference or obstruction, using his powers and influence as Chief Executive to sway court rulings one way or another?

Espinosa was among 160 or so politicians linked by the President to the illicit drug trade. His son Kerwin, described as one of the drug lords in Eastern Visayas, fled at the height of the crackdown but was captured in Abu Dhabi last October and extradited to the Philippines.

Charged with Marcos are: Supt. Santi Noel Matira, Chief Insp. Leo Laraga, SPO4 Melvin Cayobit, PO3 Johnny Ibañez, Chief Insp. Calixto Canillas Jr., SPO4 Juanito Duarte, PO1 Lloyd Ortigueza, Senior Insp. Fritz Blanco, PO1 Bhernard Orpilla, Senior Insp. Deogacias Diaz III, SPO2 Benjamin Dacallos, PO3 Norman Abellanosa, PO1 Jerlan Cabiyaan, Insp. Lucrecito Candilosas, SPO2 Antonio Docil, SPO1 Mark Christian Cadilo, PO2 Jhon Ruel Doculan, and PO2 Jaime P. Bacsal, all of the PNP CIDG-Region 6.

• Senate howl soon to die down

THE DOWNGRADING of the murder charges and the release on bail of the 19 accused raised a howl in the Senate, where a committee report recommending the filing of murder charges was unanimously approved and forwarded last March to the justice department.

Separately, the National Bureau of Investigation, a premier agency of the justice department, also recommended the filing of murder charges against the CIDG-6 policemen.

Both the NBI and the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, chaired by Sen. Ping Lacson, had established the element of premeditation in the killing of Espinosa and his fellow detainee Raul Yap.

The Senate validated documents showing that the police raiders had requested in advance for a forensic team to go to the jail, as if expecting Espinosa to be gunned down.

After the initial howls of protest in the similarly “Duterte-inspired” Senate, however, the noise over the downgrading of the murder charges to a less serious crime is expected to die down.

During the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings related to the drug war, we remember Lacson remarking at the overconfidence exuded by Marcos and his fellow CIDG-6 officers when they testified on the Espinosa-Yap slaying.

Having been chief of the Philippine National Police, the senator is familiar with the practice within the PNP and the psychology of policemen. He can read their body language.

• Cops promised acquittal or pardon

THE SUPPORT promised by President Duterte to policemen facing charges includes not only their release on bail, but also their acquittal, or pardon if convicted, and even promotion if warranted.

It would be interesting to trace the events, and Mr. Duterte’s statements, showing if Aguirre changed course upon his boss’ instruction, or if, Maute-style, he was merely “inspired” by the President’s pledge to protect policemen carrying out his battle orders.

It was Aguirre’s own justice department that filed the murder charges, yet the secretary agreed later to the downgrading of murder to homicide – although the facts surrounding the double killing have not changed.

Was he “inspired” by the protective policy of the President over policemen carrying the brunt of his drug campaign? The Commandeer-in-Chief’s reassurance to the cops must still be ringing in the secretary’s ears.

In a speech at the “Digong’s Day for Women” in Malacañang on March 31, Mr. Duterte said:

“(I)tong pulis ngayon nasabit hindi ko rin pwedeng iwanan, hindi ko talaga pwedeng iwanan. Kasi baka nga talaga sinunod ‘yung utos ko. (These cops in jail, I cannot abandon them. They just followed my order.)

“But I tell the police now — basta sinunod lang ninyo o ‘yung pinatay nitong mga putang inang ito (–if you just followed my order and killed this son of a bitch). Why do you grieve for a son of a bitch? He destroyed half of the Visayas.

Ma-convict? Ay walang problema. (If they get convicted, there’s no problem). Pardon, o, ibigay mo sa judge. Ipabasa mo sa judge. O pardon pala kayo lahat (I will give the order of pardon to the judge and he will read it, ‘you have just been pardoned’). O, restored to full and political, civil rights. And reinstated order with the promotion one rank higher.”

He pointed out that “the President can pardon, either conditional or absolute, a convicted criminal, or grant amnesty with the concurrence of Congress under the Constitution.”

Earlier in Socorro, Mindoro, the President also made the same promise to pardon the policemen in case they are convicted. He had said the same things elsewhere.

Mr. Duterte, who used to be a provincial fiscal (prosecutor), said he would believe the police version of events even after the justice department had filed murder charges against the CIDG-6 policemen.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 22, 2017)

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