Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has given the police officers implicated in the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr a month to respond to the multiple murder and other criminal charges filed against them.
The police officers, led by Superintendent Marvin Marcos, attended the preliminary hearing on the multiple murder cases and other criminal charges against them on Tuesday, December 20.
Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo directed the respondents to submit their counter-affidavits on January 23, 2017, on allegations stemming from a police operation at a Leyte jail on November 5 that led to the death of Espinosa and fellow inmate Raul Yap.
The respondents were also given copies of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) complaint filed against them.
The NBI had earlier filed murder, robbery, malicious procurement of search warrant, perjury, and planting of evidence charges against the police officers before the DOJ.
Paul Olendan, the informant whose affidavit became the basis of the officers' search warrant against Espinosa, was charged with perjury and malicious procurement of search warrant.
Among the cops implicated in the Espinosa slay, only one was not present – Police Office 2 Niel Patrimonio Centino who has been absent without official leave since October 5. Olendan was also unable to attend the proceedings.
Fourteen of the respondents were not represented by lawyers, prompting the panel of prosecutors to advise them to get the services of a legal counsel soon.
During the hearing, Alejo also admonished the policemen for prohibiting members of the media from covering the preliminary investigation.
“We remind members of the PNP that this is the DOJ and not the PNP. Please take orders from authorities of the DOJ,” the prosecutor said.
Cops who were tasked to secure the proceedings and escort the respondents had barred reporters from entering the venue of the hearing. They even covered the door with a white board to prevent footage from being taken.
The members of the media were later allowed to enter the multi-purpose hall to cover the proceedings.
The NBI earlier said Espinosa, among the first personalities tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte himself as involved in illegal drugs, was the victim of a rubout and not a shootout as claimed by the respondents. The police team insisted that Espinosa shot at them first, prompting them to fire back.