THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has rejected the move by the five former Highway Patrol Group (HPG) 7 officers to transfer the preliminary investigation of the case to Manila.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima denied the letter of the five policemen asking to transfer the investigation to the DOJ and for the state prosecutors to handle the case.

De Lima did not grant the policemen’s request because they reportedly failed to cite legal basis on why the investigation should be done in Manila, and not in Cebu.

Defense lawyer Inocencio dela Cerna was unfazed by the DOJ’s decision.

“The letter-request (of the respondents) is moot since the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office already inhibited from the case,” dela Cerna told Sun.Star Cebu.

Private prosecutor Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu confirmed the defense filed a motion asking the justice department to reconsider its resolution.

“Now I wonder what the panel of Cebu provincial prosecutors will do on the face of the DOJ’s denial. They (prosecutors) don’t have any reason to inhibit,” Dalawampu said, adding that what the prosecutors did is an abandonment of duty.

“They (prosecutors) can be held administratively liable. There can be no change of venue. The respondents did not mistrust the prosecutors, they just wanted to take the case out of Cebu to suit their purpose,” said Dalawampu.

A five-man panel of prosecutors has backed out from the criminal complaints against the five HPG 7 officers “to uphold and preserve the integrity and credibility of the office.”

In a three-page order, which was approved by Provincial Prosecutor Jane Petralba, the panel inhibited from conducting a preliminary investigation on the multiple murder and frustrated murder complaints against the policemen to “avoid any suspicion of bias or prejudice.”

She, however, pointed out that the decision of the panel to inhibit from handling the complaints is not yet final.

She said the DOJ has the final say on what to do with the multiple murder and frustrated murder charges against respondents Insp. Joselito Lerion, Supt. Romualdo Iglesia, Chief Insp. Eduardo Mara, SPO4 Edwin Galan, and PO1 Alex Bacani.

The policemen allegedly conspired in killing lawyer Noel Archival, his aide Candido Miñoza, and his driver Alejandro Jayme in Dalaguete last Feb. 18.

But private prosecutors Dalawampu and Democrito Barcenas were upset by the prosecutors’ decision. They intend to file a motion for reconsideration.