MANILA-- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday distanced himself from the downgrading of the criminal charges filed against policemen for the killing of then Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa and fellow inmate Raul Yap inside the Baybay, Leyte sub-provincial jail last year from murder to homicide.
I did not have any hand in the drafting of resolution being referred to by some Senators. I was not the one who resolved the matter. I was not the one who wrote it. I was not the one who signed it, Aguirre said when sought for a comment.
DOJ Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said Aguirre will show up in case the Senate calls for a probe on the matter.
To have a Senate probe is not his to decide on. If invited to appear before the Senate, SOJ will appear out of respect for a co-equal branch of government and of a distinguished and hallowed institution, Balmes said in a message sent to reporters covering DOJ.
Meanwhile, senators have expressed disappointment over the agency's decision to downgrade charges against the policemen involved in the killing of Espinosa Sr.
"This is a very disappointing development insofar as the ability of the government to prevent and prosecute police abuses and irregularities is concerned," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.
Last year, the Senate conducted a thorough investigation on the killing of Espinosa and recommended the filing of murder charges against the policemen led by Marcos.
"Secretary Aguirre told us under oath here in the Senate that he himself considers the killing as premeditated. He even pointed out that the conduct of Espinosa's arrest was not consistent with the PNP's (Philippine National Police) procedures," Drilon said.
The senator stressed that it was even Aguirre who said that it was "unusual" that a warrant was obtained one week after receiving information that there was a weapon inside Espinosa's cell.
Drilon also recalled that Aguirre even labeled the operation as an "overkill" considering that 19 policemen served the search warrant for a single weapon at a provincial jail when only three or four persons could have done the job. He also questioned why Aguirre suddenly decided to reverse his earlier decision.
Why did the DOJ suddenly reverse its earlier decision, which was supported by ample evidence? Why not allow the court to determine if it's murder or homicide?" Drilon asked.
The senator urged the Senate to make a stand and condemn the action by the DOJ.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, for her part, said that by downgrading the charges against the accused in the Espinosa killing, Aguirre also effectively further downgraded his reputation and integrity before the public's eyes.
"This may be the last straw for many of us. We cannot allow Secretary Aguirre to continue to toy around with our justice system. Enough's enough," Hontiveros said in a separate statement.
She said that she will ask the Senate to invite Aguirre to explain his department's decision to downgrade the charges of the accused.
There were 19 Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) Regional Office 8 operatives led by Supt. Marvin Marcos before the Baybay City, Leyte Regional Trial Court were facing the 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 4 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 1 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.
Source: Philippines News Agency