Promotion on top of pardon
Why does President Duterte insist that he would pardon the policemen involved in the brazen killing of Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, on Nov. 5, 2016, and—his latest remark on the matter—that he would even promote them?
How hard is it to be understood—or for his legal advisers in the Palace to impress on him—that doing so would be a devastating body blow to the rule of law? It would undermine the fundamental tenet of a republican society that no one is above the law, that no one should be able to get away with a crime, especially policemen who are sworn to uphold the law—and certainly even if the President absolves them of culpability and, worse, shields them from prosecution for their criminal actions.
The Department of Justice itself has indicted Supt. Marvin Marcos and 18 other policemen on murder charges. The National Bureau of Investigation agrees; so does the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, which conducted three hearings on the Espinosa killing and uncovered more damning information to validate the initial findings that pointed to “premeditated murder.”
“After conducting an exhaustive investigation of the incidents surrounding the killing of Mayor Espinosa and [Raul] Yap, the NBI concluded that the testimonies of several witnesses had disputed the claim of an alleged shootout between the [police] operatives and inmates Mayor Espinosa and Raul Yap but [was] a ‘rub out,’” said the NBI. “It was patently clear that the acts of the CIDG-8 operatives showed a community of purpose or an implied conspiracy.”
The NBI recommended the filing of murder and perjury charges against 24 police personnel. But the President is adamantly having none of it, saying he would rather believe the cops’ version that it was a shootout—that Espinosa, in by-now-familiar police parlance, had it coming because “nanlaban,” or he fought it out with the police. Incredibly, inside a jail cell—with witnesses testifying that Espinosa had no firearm with him, and that he was heard begging for his life before he was shot.
In expletive-laden remarks, the President has defended the killing on the grounds that Espinosa, who allegedly ran the biggest drug network in the Visayas, simply deserved to die because “he destroyed half of the Visayas” and that he also supposedly had four policemen killed. If the policemen who killed Espinosa end up convicted, the President said, “Ay, walang problema” (no problem), because he would forthwith pardon them—plus a “reinstated order with the promotion one rank higher.”
As for Espinosa, the President wanted to know: “Why do you grieve for a son of a bitch?”
But the grief is not so much for alleged drug lords as for the perverted process by which they are brought to justice. Prior to his death, Espinosa had submitted an affidavit naming 226 personalities allegedly involved in the drug trade—among them 19 politicians, 38 policemen, four from the judiciary, and sundry others. He had named names from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group—the same police outfit that barged into his prison cell, supposedly to serve him an arrest warrant at 4 a.m., and killed him and another inmate. With his affidavit, the mayor had become the biggest witness so far against a drug syndicate that appeared to reach to high places; his murder, from all indications, was an act designed to silence him.
Why is the President seemingly uninterested in getting to the bottom of this case? Why is it that he would rather come off as flouting the law, risking the sense of justice and fairness that the public demands from such a flagrant case of official misconduct, to protect a cabal of apparently murderous policemen? What does he know that he is not telling us?
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