MANILA, Philippines – Why did the Department of Justice recommend the downgrading of charges against Police Supt. Marvin Marcos and his co-accused? What was the basis of the downgrading of charges from murder to homicide?
Why were the charges downgraded despite the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation that the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa was premeditated murder? Could there be somebody so powerful who wants Marcos and his men to get off the hook?
These are but some of the numerous queries that senators want answered as they crossed party lines on Wednesday in initiating moves to find out why Marcos and his men were able to post bail and walk out of prison nearly three months since they were arrested and detained for the November 5, 2016 killing of Espinosa and fellow inmate Raul Yap while the two were imprisoned at the Baybay Provincial Jail in Leyte.
Koko wants probe of Espinosa slay reopened
Senate president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III wants to re-open the Upper Chamber’s inquiry into Espinosa’s slay. He told reporters that the Senate should see and review the counter-affidavits submitted by Marcos’ camp that convinced the DOJ to downgrade the charges against the police officers.
Pimentel said he also wanted to know if there was something irregular in what the DOJ did and whether there was corruption involved in its action favoring the accused. He said DOJ officials must be asked on what had convinced them to issue a resolution to reduce the charges.
On Wednesday, DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II washed his hands of the action of his own agency.
“Hindi ako ang nag-issue ng resolution na ‘yan [I did not issue that resolution]. I have not even read the resolution. I did not sign anything. It’s just one of the process sa amin sa [here at the] DOJ,” the DOJ chief told reporters.
“Sinasabi nila na may flip-flopping d’yan [They claim that there’s flip-flopping], there’s no such thing as flip-flopping here (DOJ),” he added.
The DOJ resolution was issued last May 29 by Undersecretary Reynante Orceo. It stated that “evidence on record” against Marcos and his men “do not support the allegation of evident premeditation” of the killing of Espinosa and Yap.
“The record is bereft of any showing as to when the respondents conceived the plan and as to what they would commit the crime. Not even a single affidavit or statements will corroborate said allegations,” Orceo’s resolution further stated.
But Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV isn’t convinced of Aguirre’s explanation and the arguments raised in Orceo’s resolution.
On Wednesday, Aquino told reporters that he had filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the DOJ’s action, which “really puts into question the credibility of the institution and the Secretary.”
The senator said his colleagues would also file their own resolutions in relation to the surprising release of Marcos and 17 other police officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP)-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s detention facility in Leyte.
“Merong resolution na ipa-file ang mga iba’t ibang miyembro ng Senado. I think we’re asking some members of the majority na pumirma rin expressing grave concern do’n po sa pag-downgrade ng charges kina Superintendent Marcos ng DOJ,” Aquino said.
“Aside from that, meron din po tayong finile na separate resolution…an inquiry kung bakit po ito ginawa ng DOJ.”
“So dalawa ho ‘yan. May isa na magbubukas ng hearing para malaman po ng taumbayan ano po ‘yong rason kung bakit nag-iba ang pananaw ng DOJ…And ang isa pang resolution expressing serious concern mula po sa Senado.”
Aquino said that through a Senate inquiry, lawmakers would be able to quiz resource persons to find out whether Marcos and his men have a powerful protector.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, former DOJ chief, on Wednesday said a petition could be filed at the Court of Appeals to question DOJ’s move.
“Considering the overwhelming evidence against the accused, the families of the offended parties can question before the Court of Appeals the decision of the DOJ and the Regional Trial Court to charge the accused with the lesser offense of homicide on the ground of grave abuse of discretion,” Drilon said.
“The Senate has a stake in this case. The Senate unanimously took the position that Mayor Espinosa was murdered as he was killed with evident premeditation and abuse of authority,” Drilon said.
“What the DOJ did was really deplorable — when they acted contrary to evidence gathered, not only by its department, but also by the Senate and the National Bureau of Investigation,” he added.
On Tuesday, detained Sen. Leila de Lima asked how could the DOJ, thru Orceo, “not see and appreciate the presence of the qualifying circumstance of evident premeditation, and even abuse of superior strength, in the execution of such criminal act which bears the hallmarks of summary execution?”
“What does it make of the Senators and the NBI probers (who were convinced of the culpability of Marcos, et al. for murder), if people simply accept DOJ’s conclusion that ‘nothing in the records’ could prove evident premeditation?” De Lima, former DOJ chief, said.
“Something tells me that the DOJ’s initial adoption of NBI’s recommendation was just for show, a charade, so as to please or satisfy the Senate and the public. The actual game plan though was to downgrade the charges, as done now, and ultimately weaken the case vs. those rogue police officers and men,” said the lawmaker.
Order to kill Espinosa came from ‘very top’
De Lima said the downgrading of the charges had bolstered her “suspicion that Marcos, et al. were actually carrying out an order to liquidate Mayor Espinosa, and that such order came from the top, the very top.”
“Call it a speculation, or even paranoia, but I’m almost certain that there must be something Mayor Espinosa knew or about to do relative to his son Kerwin’s so-called “pink book” or “blue book” that underlied the mastermind’s decision to kill the Mayor,” she said.
De Lima said “such pink or blue book, whichever, insofar as it includes my name is certainly spurious-as spurious and fabricated as all the other so-called evidence the DOJ purports to have as to my alleged involvement in the drug trade, either within or outside Bilibid.”
“Could it be that Mayor Espinosa was about to tell the truth or showed signs of revealing which names genuinely belong to Kerwin Espinosa’s list of drug protectors/beneficiaries and those that do not?,” she said.
“Was the father killed as a warning to the son so the latter could fully “cooperate”, as he did, in concocting all those lies about me and my alleged dealings with him (who I absolutely do not know from Adam)?,” added De Lima.
Duterte ordered Marcos’ reinstatement the same day he was sacked
Last December 5, PNP chief Gen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, during a Senate hearing, testified that in mid-October of the same year, he had sacked Marcos as chief of the PNP-CIDG in Region 8 after Kerwin Espinosa told authorities that Marcos was allegedly a recipient of drug money.
But on the same day that he was terminated, Marcos was ordered reinstated by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The chief executive, also last December, admitted ordering Dela Rosa to reinstate Marcos. He said he had told the PNP chief via a phone call to “not remove the guy (Marcos)” because the latter was part of an “investigative job” that Duterte was doing.
Weeks later, on November 5, Mayor Espinosa was killed inside his detention cell allegedly by Marcos and his men.
Later in the same month, Kerwin, a suspected drug lord, testified in the Senate that he had given P8 million to De Lima for her 2016 senatorial campaign through the lawmaker’s former driver and partner Ronnie Dayan.
De Lima was arrested on February 24 this year and detained at the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City after drug-related charges were filed against her before a Muntinlupa court by the DOJ.