“I WILL not allow these guys to go to prison.It’s up to NBI to say it’s murder. After all, NBI is under me. Department of Justice (DOJ) is also under me. I won’t abandom them because I was the one who ordered (the war on drugs).”
-- President Duterete, Dec. 7, 2016
The CIDG 19, members of the police crime investigation and detection group, were charged with killing Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and another jail detainee, Raul Yap, last Nov. 7.
No dispute that the CIDG team served a search warrant in the jail where Espinosa, linked to drug trafficking in the region, was confined and shot him dead. What is disputed is that they shot the mayor because he fought back with a gun. It’s what the court will determine at the trial.
Earlier, the premier investigative agency, NBI, and the Senate hearings concluded that the killings in the Leyte jail were a rubout to silence the mayor. They found a conspiracy to eliminate Espinosa whose involvement in the drug trade could expose the alleged corruption of CIDG by drug merchants.
Add the weirdly suspicious search in the jail without the presence of jail authorities and the finding of a gun and drugs in Espinosa’s possession.
Prosecution on track
Yet despite the evidence, DOJ downgraded murder to homicide, the court freed the CIDG men on bail, and Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa reinstated them and promoted Supt. Marvin Marcos, their leader, by naming him a regional police chief. A “back to duty” order, not just a reinstatement, for him and the 19 other co-accused.
Did the president foil the prosecution to stop the justice system in its tracks? No. The process wasn’t derailed. It has gone on. The CIDG men were released on bail, a lawful procedure, after the charge was reduced to homicide, which DOJ as prosecutor could lawfully do. They were legally granted bail.
And Police Chief Bato put them back to work, arguing that (1) it would be a waste of manpower (“sayang”), (2) Marcos was punished enough and (3) he’s being assigned in the war-torn area in Mindanao (“more punishment”).
Despite the oddness, one must admire the keeping of the promise: not just to the CIDG men and the rest of the police force but to the nation that the president would do it without disrupting the machinery of justice.
Ping’s ‘p***ng ina’
The cops would eventually face trial (maybe later than sooner because of the clogged-up courts). Prosecutors led by DOJ (“under me”) would present evidence from the police and NBI (“under me”) and the judge, who must think of his career, would decide that the accused acted in self-defense. By then, they could get their medals. Or, if they’d be convicted, the president could pardon them. All within the law.
Promises kept. With the legal process followed. Applause.
So what’s all the fuss and outrage by the senators? One of them even did a Digong: Sen. Ping Lacson spewed out “P***ng Ina!” twice.
It’s part of the democratic process. The legislative branch providing balance and telling the nation that finally they’re responding with some noise this time, after the first year of meekly accepting everything that was going on.
But could we have even the illusion that some force could change the good fortune of the mayor’s killers?
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on July 17, 2017.
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