Dela Rosa defends Marcos reinstatement: 'Justice system working'

MANILA, Philippines – Amid criticism from several individuals and sectors, including  his "idol" in the Senate, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa defended the reinstatement of the cop alleged to be the mastermind of the killing of a jailed mayor.

"Pinakita naman natin na gumana 'yung justice system natin, hindi ba? Tumatakbo (We showed that our justice system works, didn't we? It's working)," Dela Rosa said  in a chance interview with reporters on the sidelines of a gun show in Mandaluyong City on Thursday, July 13.

He made the statement a day after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the reinstatement of Superintendent Marvin Marcos, former chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 (CIDG 8). Marcos headed the unit when it tried to serve a search warrant on Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr inside his jail cell in Baybay City, Leyte.

Marcos and his men claimed Espinosa and another inmate had firearms and drugs inside jail. They also claimed that the mayor tried to "fight back," prompting CIDG 8 police to open fire. But various investigations – from the PNP's own Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to the Senate – have raised suspicions on the cops' claims.

The NBI earlier tagged it a rubout.

Marcos and his men were relieved from their posts pending investigation and were sued for murder. Later on, the case was downgraded to homicide. Administratively, Marcos and his men faced suspension as a form of punishment.

But staying true to his earlier promise to protect police in the line of duty, Duterte ordered Marcos – and his men's – reinstatement, and even vowed to pardon them if they get convicted in connection with the Espinosa slay.

"Basta balik na sila. Back to normal duties na sila. Okay lang. Puwede na sila ma-deploy (They're back. They're back to normal duties. That's okay. They may be deployed again)," said Dela Rosa, referring to Marcos and his team.

Marcos, a graduate of the Philippine National Police Academy, is set to take over the CIDG in Soccsksargen. Some of his men are set to join him there while others will be reassigned to the CIDG in Central Visayas.

Impunity in the PNP

At least twice in the past, Dela Rosa had ordered or approved a sanction against Marcos.

In October 2016, Dela Rosa sacked the CIDG 8 chief after police arrested Kerwin Espinosa, the late mayor's son who was accused of being an Eastern Visayas drug lord. Kerwin told Philippine police in Abu Dhabi that Marcos himself got money from the Espinosas' drug operations.

But Dela Rosa's order was soon revoked after Duterte himself stepped in and ordered the PNP chief to reinstate Marcos. The President claimed he was doing his own investigation into the police officer.

Dela Rosa was eventually able to sack Marcos after the November 5 killing of the Albuera mayor.

The second time was when Dela Rosa approved the IAS' recommendation to suspend Marcos and several of his men. Again, it was Duterte who revoked the sanction.

The PNP chief didn't seem bothered by the President's actions. "Magtrabaho sila nang mabuti, magtrabaho sila nang maayos at ipakita niya na matino siya na pulis (He should work well, work properly, and show everyone that he is a decent cop). He should prove himself," said Dela Rosa when asked about his marching orders for Marcos.

But when pressed why Marcos' reinstatement would not encourage impunity in the PNP, Dela Rosa was literally speechless.

The PNP chief paused for 10 seconds after he was asked by reporters to explain how lifting the sanctions on Marcos would not make other policemen feel that they could get away with what they want, as what critics have been saying.

"Kung 'yung drug pusher or drug lord may kini-claim sila na due process, eh bakit hindi natin puwede ibigay doon sa pulis na dumaan sa due process (If the drug pusher or drug lord can claim due process, why can't police undergo due process)?" said Dela Rosa.

He added: "What's the difference between a law enforcer at 'yung isang drug lord or drug pusher? Pareho lang silang tao na they can avail [of] due process at lahat ng puwede nilang ma-avail bilang Filipino. So they availed of everything, lahat ng legal remedies. Tumakbo 'yung justice system natin, tumakbo."

(What's the difference between a law enforcer and a drug lord, a drug pusher? They are all people who can avail of due process. They can avail of that because they are Filipino. So they availed of everything, all legal remedies. The justice system ran its course.)

This time, addressing the media directly, Dela Rosa added: "I will exhaust everything I can do humanly possible to conquer impunity sa imagination ninyo, kung meron mang impunity (in your imagination, if there is impunity)."

Marcos and his men, while getting off scot-free from administrative sanctions, still face homicide charges. –