MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senators on Thursday, July 13, slammed the reinstatement of the police officer who led the team implicated in the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr and another inmate in a Leyte jail last year.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, summed up the reinstatement of Superintendent Marvin Marcos with the favorite expletive of the Chief Executive who had ordered it.
"In sum, there is a phrase to describe this whole damn thing: Put*ng i*a!" said Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that led the investigation into the death of Espinosa and inmate Raul Yap during a raid of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 (CIDG 8).
Lacson's committee and the committee on human rights concluded that the killing of Espinosa was "premeditated" and an instance of "abuse of authority" by CIDG 8 operatives. The committee report had recommended murder charges against Marcos and 18 others in his team. (READ: Why Senate thinks CIDG 8 planned Espinosa killing)
Lacson said what happened to Marcos was "not even a reinstatement" but a "back-to-duty status after serving his 4-month suspension order incorporated in a 'slap-on-the-wrist' administrative penalty imposed on Marcos by the PNP IAS (Internal Affairs Service) and subsequently approved by [PNP chief Ronald] dela Rosa."
President Rodrigo Duterte announced at the anniversary of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology on Wednesday, July 12, that he had ordered the reinstatement of Marcos after the cop served his suspension order. (READ: Duterte orders reinstatement of cop in Espinosa slay, again)
Duterte also said he would pardon Marcos if the police officer would be convicted in connection with the Espinosa case.
Last month, the justice department downgraded from murder to homicide the recommended charges against Marcos and 18 others for the same incident.
Deeper stain on PNP image
Senator Grace Poe said the reinstatement of Marcos "may further tarnish" the image of the PNP and would promote a "culture of impunity" among the police.
"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," Poe said.
"Such reinstatement may just encourage a culture of impunity among the ranks. The PNP could very well carry out its duties in protecting our people without somebody like Marcos and his cohorts," she added.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said in a separate statement, "The reinstatement of murderous cops is a danger to the Filipino people."
"Ito'y malinaw na pagbalewala sa mga umiiral na batas at nagpapalakas pa sa kultura ng karahasan. Itigil na ang pagkakanlong sa mga kriminal sa hanay ng kapulisan at hayaang umiral ang katarungan," Aquino added.
(This is a clear disregard for the law and bolsters the culture of violence. Let's put a stop to the coddling of criminals among the ranks of the police and let justice prevail.)
Obstruction of justice
Senator Risa Hontiveros said Duterte's reinstatement order is "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," Hontiveros said.
The senator reminded Duterte that the Senate had unanimously recommended the filing of murder charges against the members of the CIDG 8 team.
"The Senate and even the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) concluded that the death of Espinosa is a case of extrajudicial killing. How can President Duterte dismiss those findings? For the President to order the reinstatement of Marcos absolves him and his men of any wrongdoing," she said.
The Department of Justice had earlier filed murder charges against the cops – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and the NBI initially said the slay was premeditated – but later downgraded these to homicide charges. (READ: Senators hit Aguirre for downgrading murder charges vs Espinosa slay cops)
Hontiveros 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. We let a murderer have a free pass and go back to the uniformed service because his suspension is a waste of money? Let me remind my mistah and old friend, the PNP chief, that the real criminal waste of taxpayers' money are bad cops and injustices," she said.
'Immunity to criminals'
From her detention cell in Camp Crame, 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. International law doctrine and jurisprudence consider these actions as clear indicators of 'fraudulent administration of justice,'" she said.
"There is assurance of executive clemency, downgrading of offense charged to allow the posting of bail, and now reinstatement in the service," added De Lima, Duterte's fiercest critic who is facing drug charges anchored on the testimonies of convicts at the New Bilibid Prison.
This, she said, "is truly alarming, truly horrifying."
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV offered his theory on why Duterte had consistently defended Marcos.
"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.
Trillanes recalled that during and following the Senate inquiry into the Espinosa slay, it was revealed Duterte had requested Dela Rosa to reinstate Marcos and his team to CIDG 8. Marcos was initially relieved because of his supposed drug links.
"It was Duterte himself who ordered Dela Rosa for immediate reinstatement. Then just a few weeks after, Espinosa ended up getting murdered by Marcos' group," he said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan urged the members of the Senate majority who signed the committee report on the Espinosa slay to speak out to "fulfill their duty."
"It is quite disturbing considering that the NBI and the Senate findings point to murder. We hope the members of the Senate majority who signed the committee report will close ranks and fulfill their duty to act as a check and balance on the executive branch," Pangilinan said. – Rappler.com