Shocked senators have condemned the reinstatement of a police officer charged with the shooting of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa and another inmate in a Leyte jail last year.
Superintendent Marvin Marcos and 18 subordinates are facing homicide charges after shooting Espinosa and Raul Yap during a raid on their cell in Baybay City Jail.
The officers claimed Espinosa, who was accused of involvement in the drug trade, had fired the first shot with a smuggled gun.
Marcos and his men were released on bail last month after their charges were downgraded by the Department of Justice from murder to homicide on the basis there was “no evidence of premeditation or plan to kill the victims”.
Speaking today (Thursday, July 13), former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Senator Panfilo Lacson summed up the reinstatement of Marcos with the favourite expletive of President Duterte.
“In sum, there is a phrase to describe this whole damn thing: Put*ng i*a!” he said.
Senator Lacson is the chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that led the investigation into the shootings.
His committee, along with the committee on human rights, concluded that the killing of Espinosa was premeditated murder and an instance of “abuse of authority”.
President Duterte announced the reinstatement of Marcos yesterday saying he had served his four-month suspension and was “presumed innocent until proven guilty”.
“Innocent until proven guilty”
Marcos is already back in service and heading the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Soccsksargen.
Furthermore, the president also said he would pardon Marcos if the police officer were ever convicted in connection with the case.
This isn’t the first time the officer has been reinstated on the president’s orders.
Last October he was relieved over alleged involvement in the drug trade of Kerwin Espinosa, the late mayor’s son, but was reinstated on the same day.
It was just weeks after this, in November, that the father was shot in his cell.
“Culture of impunity”
Senator Grace Poe was aghast at today’s decision, and 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.
“Such reinstatement may just encourage a culture of impunity among the ranks.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros described the reinstatement order as “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. 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 was a case of extrajudicial killing.
“How can President Duterte dismiss those findings?”
She also called out Dela Rosa for saying it was better to reinstate Marcos since he was “getting paid anyway”.
“I expect better thinking from the PNP chief,” she said. “We let a murderer have a free pass and go back to the uniformed service because his suspension is a waste of money?”
From her cell in Camp Crame, jailed Senator Leila de Lima said what she found “shocking” about Duterte’s order was its ultimate purpose — granting immunity to criminals.
“What is shocking though is the obvious and inescapable conclusion that these actions by Duterte have been adopted with the illegitimate purpose of affording criminals immunity.
“This truly alarming, truly horrifying.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV went even further, saying the president had an ulterior motive.
“Duterte not only set the murderers free, he now gave back their badges and guns so they could murder again with impunity. Why? Because Duterte fears that these policemen might rat out on him for what they know about his involvement in the Espinosa murder,” he said.
“There are reasons”
Police chief Ronald dela Rosa said the public should trust the PNP’s decision, saying: “There’s an Internal Affairs Service who investigated his case. If Marcos was given a dismissal, suspension, or a sanction lower than what is expected by the public, there are reasons for that.”
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella also defended the decision. “The president respects and abides by the rule of law,” he said.
“Police Superintendent Marvin Marcos has served his suspension and is eligible to be back to duty.”