DOJ downgrades raps vs cops in killing of Leyte mayor

By on June 8, 2017

PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa (right) with Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. (left) in August 2016 press conference immediately after the latter's arrest. (Photo: PNP's official Facebook page)
PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa (right) with Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. (left) in August 2016 press conference immediately after the latter’s arrest. (Photo: PNP’s official Facebook page)

MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday downgraded the charges against the policemen involved in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa and another inmate inside their detention cell in Baybay, Leyte last November from murder to homicide.

The 19 Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) Regional Office 8 operatives led by Supt. Marvin Marcos before the Baybay City, Leyte Regional Trial Court are facing charges after the panel of prosecutors created by DOJ Department Order No. 890 found probable cause to indict the members of PNP last March 2.

The March 2 resolution noted that the death of Espinosa and Yap were attended by treachery and the respondents used stealth to carry out the raid and that they clearly outnumbered and out-armed the victims.

“The panel likewise determined that the respondents strategically positioned themselves to secure the ingress and egress of the jail facility. It was also determined that evident premeditation was also present since the attack was well-planned, with the execution of the killings under the deception of implementing a search warrant,” said part of the resolution signed by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo who headed the prosecution panel and approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Pedrito Rancis.

The accused filed a petition for review with the DOJ and released a resolution last May 29 and ordered the Leyte prosecutor to amend the Information (charge sheet) in court.

“It is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court to recognize and give weight to the said resolution on the petition for review before the DOJ and after due hearing, grant leave for the public prosecution to amend and downgrade the Information for Murder to Homicide in these cases,” stated in four-page motion dated June 6, 2017 filed before the Baybay City Regional Trial Court Branch 14 which was signed by Provincial Prosecutor Ma. Arlene Hunamayor-Cordovez.

Cordovez filed the motion upon orders from the DOJ.

A case for murder is filed if it was proven that it is attended by any of the qualifying aggravating circumstances under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code.

Marcos and 10 of his men- S/Insp. Deogracia Pedong Diaz III, C/Insp. Calixto Canillas Jr., Insp. Lucresito Candelosas, SPO2s Benjamin Dacallos and Antonio Docil, SPO1 1 Mark Christian Cadilo, PO3 Norman Abellanosa, PO2s John Ruel Doculan and Jaime Bacsal, and PO1 Jerlan Cabiyaan- were charged with two counts of murder for allegedly being involved in the killings of Espinosa and Yap.

Four other police officers were charged for the killing of Espinosa – Supt. Santi Noel Matira, C/Insp.Leo Daio Laraga, SPO4 Melvin Caboyit and PO3 Johnny Abuda Ibanez – while four others for the murder of Yap – S/Insp. Fritz Bioco Blanco, SPO4 4 Juanito Duarte, PO2 Lloyd Ortiguesa and PO1 Bernard Orpilla.

Homicide is a bailable offense. A case for homicide if there is no qualifying circumstances of murder or there is not enough evidence to prove the qualifying circumstance as in this case — treachery and evident premeditation.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the indictment only goes to show that the government will not tolerate any misdeeds of its officers.

“The filing of this case in court precipitated the issuance of the arrest warrant against the concerned PNP-CIDG personnel. This is the arrest warrant that Chief PNP Ronald dela Rosa was referring to. It is said that the dead cannot cry out for justice. It is therefore the duty of the living to do so for them. We hope that by the combined efforts of the NBI and our prosecution service, we can really serve justice in this case,” Aguirre said when sought for comment.

It will be recalled that citing testimonial and forensic evidence, the NBI said the killing of Espinosa, who has earlier surrendered to the authorities after he and his son Kerwin were named by President Rodrigo Duterte as being involved in the illegal drugs trade, and Yap, were a result of rub-out and not a shootout as claimed by the policemen who conducted the raid.

During the Senate hearing on public order and dangerous drugs and the committee on justice and human rights said the death of Espinosa and Yap was “premeditated and with abuse of authority” on the part of the police operatives.

Espinosa’s son, self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa claimed that Marcos, Laraga and Matira received payoffs from him.

The committees headed by Senator Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon said Espinosa was killed to cover up the involvement of some of the police officers in the illegal drugs trade.