Promotion for CIDG’s Marcos? Senators smell cover-up

Marvin Sy - The Philippine Star
Promotion for CIDGâs Marcos? Senators smell cover-up

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa attends a Senate hearing yesterday on the reinstatement of policemen involved in the killing of Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa. Beside him is Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo. GEREMY PINTOLO

MANILA, Philippines -  Sen. Panfilo Lacson denounced yesterday the Duterte administration’s coddling and even possible promotion of Supt. Marvin Marcos who was spared from murder charges along with 17 other policemen involved in the killing of mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte in 2016. 

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa had returned Marcos to active duty, assigned to Region 12 or SOCCKSCARGEN as regional director of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). 

The 17 other policemen were assigned in the Visayas and Mindanao.

During the Senate hearing yesterday, Dela Rosa admitted that President Duterte repeatedly told him to return to duty Marcos and the other officers charged for the killing of Espinosa and another inmate in November 2016.

Dela Rosa confirmed that the decision to place Marcos and his co-accused back on duty was based on what he deemed to be instructions of the President.

Marcos led members of the CIDG Region 8 that killed Espinosa and fellow detainee Raul Yap on Nov. 5, 2016 inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City.

Espinosa was detained for alleged drug trafficking. Duterte had described him as a narco politician.

The CIDG agents claimed that Espinosa fought back when they were trying to serve a search warrant to recover guns from the mayor in his detention cell.

According to Lacson, the regional director of CIDG in SOCCSKSCARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City) carries the rank of senior superintendent, which means that Marcos’ promotion could be forthcoming. 

“So there is a huge possibility that after six months, which is the required residency period, he can be promoted to senior superintendent,” Lacson said. 

“We have all the reason to suspect that Marcos is being coddled here,” he added. 

Lacson has made it clear to Dela Rosa that he was not happy with the way Marcos is being coddled and that he is against his being rewarded with a promotion. 

“The reason I mentioned this is really to preempt whatever it is they are planning because he is already at the entry point. He was given an entry point to be promoted. At least I made them conscious that the Senate is watching closely,” Lacson said. 

The senators got the impression of an ongoing cover-up in the case of Marcos and the 17 other police officers at yesterday’s hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, chaired by Lacson.

The Senate inquiry was called after the Department of Justice downgraded the murder charges recommended by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against the policemen involved in the operations to homicide that allowed them to post bail.

According to Dela Rosa, the President repeatedly told him to return Marcos and his men to duty since the government is paying their salaries.

“As far as the reassignment back to CIDG… the President really said that we should use these people. We lack people on the ground. They are being paid so let’s put them to work,” Dela Rosa said.

Asked by Sen. Grace Poe if he tried to recommend to the President not to give assignments to Marcos and his men, Dela Rosa admitted that he advised him to wait until the issue had died down.

“But he always says to get them back because they are not doing anything. I took it as an order. I’m just taking hints from his pronouncements,” Dela Rosa said.

Dela Rosa said he would take full responsibility if the officers commit wrongdoing again in their new assignments.

Asked by Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV if it was normal practice to place policemen accused of committing serious crimes back on duty, Dela Rosa said that it was “not so normal” and that it was just the instruction of the President to get them back to their rounds.

Aquino said that the case of Marcos and his men could send a bad signal to the public about how erring policemen are treated and could also end up risking the credibility of the entire police force.

Dela Rosa, however, denied that Duterte had influenced the decision to downgrade the murder case to homicide.

He said that the pronouncements made by the President about protecting policemen who get in trouble while performing their duties did not affect his decision regarding the cases of Marcos and his subordinates.

“The pronouncements of the President were continuous, it does not affect our decision. He did not call me up to give me instructions whether to absolve or penalize Marcos. He never interfered,” Dela Rosa said. 

Dela Rosa defended the decision on Marcos and his men, who he said went through the legal process and were penalized already.

“I think if we look at it in one way, if we can accord this kind of process to ordinary criminals, then we should also make this available to ordinary policemen,” Dela Rosa said.

“This boosts the morale (of the PNP). Because the President is a man of his word. He said that if you (police) run into trouble, I will back you up, I will not abandon you. What Superintendent Marcos did, it was in the line of duty. Supt. Marcos is being assisted to get back to work so this boosts the morale,” he added.

Probers recommend murder raps

State prosecutors and NBI agents who investigated the policemen involved in the killing of Espinosa and Yap stood firm on their recommendation to charge Marcos and his men with murder and not homicide as assessed by Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo.

The NBI, in its own investigation, also came up with the same findings as the panel of prosecutors.

The report of the panel was eventually reviewed and revised by Orceo, who issued a resolution downgrading the charges against Marcos and his men from murder to homicide. 

Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo said that the panel only found out that Orceo and his team had taken over the case in the news reports, but she understood it was the prerogative of the justice secretary to reverse their recommendation.

NBI Director Dante Gierran said that a motion for reconsideration has been filed with the office of Orceo.

All of the senators present during the hearing yesterday questioned Orceo for coming out with an altogether different conclusion of the case.

According to Orceo, he had a different appreciation of the case as the panel and the NBI and that he did not take into consideration the Senate committee’s findings, which also recommended the filing of murder charges against Marcos and his men.

Orceo maintained that premeditation was not evident based on the evidence his team examined.

He added that the review of the case and the issuance of the final resolution was his own responsibility and that Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II had nothing to do with his decision to downgrade the charges.

Senators believed the reinstatement of Marcos and his men and the downgrading of the criminal charges filed against them are part of an ongoing cover-up of the Espinosa killing.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Orceo was “obviously lying” during the hearing on the reasons he downgraded the murder charges.

“Instead of being able to explain what happened, it is obvious from the hearing today there’s a deliberate cover-up to allow Marcos and his group to be reinstated and to allow Marcos and his group to be able to post bail. To me, what the hearing today confirms is a conspiracy to cover-up,” Drilon said.

“If there’s basis I would not hesitate to recommend to the committee that we file an anti-graft case against Orceo, at the very least, because, obviously, he’s lying. His testimony is not credible at all,” Drilon said.

Lacson said he also got the impression of a cover-up.

Drilon and Lacson pointed to Orceo’s action in writing the resolution downgrading the charges as among the telling indications of a cover-up.

PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) chief lawyer Alfegar Triambulo also had released his finding that there was a “conspiracy to kill” Espinosa, which Drilon, Lacson and Sen. Richard Gordon said was tantamount to murder.

The senators also wondered why Orceo “disregarded” the Senate committee report concluding the incident as murder and the filing of appropriate charges against Marcos and his men.

‘It was murder’

During the hearing conducted by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs on the downgrading of the cases of Marcos and his men, the panel of prosecutors assigned to the case, led by Alejo, said it was clear to them that the policemen were liable for the murders of Espinosa and Yap.

Alejo claimed that it was highly irregular for the members of the Region 8 CIDG to secure a search warrant for Espinosa’s jail cell, which she said was unnecessary.

She said that there was evident premeditation in the killing of Espinosa and Yap because the operation was planned before it was carried out.

The panel also saw treachery in the actions of the officers when they disarmed their fellow policemen detailed at the Leyte provincial jail instead of seeking their assistance in the operation.

Alejo said that there was also an eyewitness who claimed that one of the officers gave a thumbs down sign that was followed by the rest of the team opening fire at the cell of Espinosa.

She said there was conspiracy in the case of Marcos, who claimed that he was outside the jail during the operation, but coordinated the movement of his men inside.

“It appeared that it was orchestrated and planned,” she said.  –  With Paolo Romero

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