DOJ downgrades charges vs cops in Espinosa slay

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 08 2017 05:07 PM | Updated as of Jun 08 2017 05:22 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has downgraded from murder to homicide charges filed against several policemen tagged in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa and another inmate at a sub-provincial jail in November 2016.

In a motion for amendment of the criminal information filed with the Baybay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14, Provincial Prosecutor Ma. Arlene Cordovez informed the court that the DOJ, through a review resolution dated May 29, 2017, dismissed two counts of murder against members of the the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8, led by its chief Supt. Marvin Marcos. 

The DOJ instead ordered their indictment for the lesser and bailable offense of homicide. 

In her motion, Cordovez asked the court "to grant leave to the public prosecution to amend the Information for Murder in these cases and downgrade it to Homicide, and after due hearing, to admit the Amended Information for Homicide.” 

The downgrade meant the DOJ, upon review, saw no premeditation in the killing, which had triggered a Senate investigation. 

The department's earlier resolution, which respondents appealed, ordered the indictment of the following for one count of murder for Espinosa’s slay: Marcos, Supt. Noel Matira, Chief Inspector Leo Laraga, SPO4 Melvin Cayobit, PO3 Johnny Ibañez, Senior Inspector Deogacias Diaz III, SPO2 Benjamin Dacallos, PO3 Norman Abellanosa, PO1 Jerlan Cabiyaan, Chief Inspector Calixto Canillas Jr., Senior Inspector Lucrecito Candilosas, SPO2 Antonio Docil, SPO1 Mark Christian Cadilo, PO2 Jhon Ruel Doculan, and PO2 Jaime Bacsal.

Indicted for a separate count of murder for slay of inmate Raul Yap were Marcos, Diaz, Dacallos, Abellanosa, Cabiyaan, Canillas, Candilosas, Cadillo, Doculan, Bacsal, SPO4 Juanito Duarte, PO1 Lloyd Ortigueza, Senior Inspector Fritz Blanco, PO1 Bhernard Orpilla, and SPO2 Antonio Docil.

Indicted for two counts of violation of Article 129 of the Revised Penal Code for maliciously obtaining search warrants and abuse in the service of the same were Laraga, Abellanosa, and Paul Olendan, the witness used by the policemen in obtaining the warrants.

Olendan was also indicted for perjury.

The first resolution was signed by the panel of prosecutors that handled the preliminary investigation of the case, composed of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia Torrevillas, State Prosecutor Jinky Dedumo, Assistant State Prosecutor Karla Cabel, and Prosecution Attorney Moises Acayan.

Marcos’ group arrived at the sub-provincial jail dawn of November 5, 2016 to serve search warrants for Espinosa and Yap’s cells for alleged possession of a firearm and illegal drugs, respectively.

Espinosa had been detained on drug charges. 

In its first resolution, the DOJ said “respondents’ collective and independent actions, that is, respondent PSI Diaz’s group securing the inner and outer perimeter of the jail facility, Teams A and B’s successfully entering the cell nos. 1 and 7 which eventually led to the killing of victims Mayor Espinosa and Mr. Yap, under the guise of implementing an alleged lawful search, and respondent PSupt. Marcos’ briefing the teams and supervising the operations from the beginning to end by closely coordinating with the group inside his car, which was parked 70-80 meters outside the facility, were concerted and cooperative."

It said the "killings are qualified by evident premeditation since the attack was well planned."

"The records will show that respondents craftily executed the killings under the pretense of implementing a search warrant. They planned to kill Mayor Espinosa and Mr. Yap during the pre-operation meeting before the raid… Their unified act before, during and after the commission of the crime, prove respondents’ determination to kill the victims," it read.

“Their premeditated actions reek of conspiracy to commit a felony, in this case, to kill victims Mayor Espinosa and Mr. Yap,” the 24-page original resolution read.

'NO PREMEDITATION, NO ABUSE OF SUPERIOR STRENGTH'

But the 18-page DOJ review resolution, signed by Undersecretary Reynante Orceo, said “[t]he evidence on record do not support the allegation of evident premeditation.”

“The record is bereft of any showing as to when the respondents conceived the plan and as to what time they would commit the crime. Not even a single affidavit or statements will corroborate said allegations,” the review resolution read.

On the allegation of abuse of superior strength as a qualifying circumstance, the review resolution explained that the participation of the 19 police officers in the operation “does not meet this qualifying circumstance,” noting that it was “just reasonable and logical that police operation requires several armed men to ensure its success, their protection and security.”

“Based on the foregoing, there is no sufficient basis for the indictment of the herein respondents for murder as recommended by the panel of prosecutors in the assailed resolution,” the new
resolution read.

As to the order for respondents’ indictment for homicide, the DOJ said admissions of both Laraga and Duarte that they killed Espinosa and Yap were enough evidence to warrant the filing of the criminal case. 

The homicide case was ordered filed against all respondents earlier charged with the murder offense.

“Although only respondents Laraga and Duarte admitted that they inflicted the fatal shot to the two victims during the operation, the other respondents, excluding civilian Olendan, must also be indicted for homicide. Their active participation during the operation, notwithstanding the absence of any plan to kill the two victims, can already be classified as part of conspiracy that led to the killing of the victims,” the review resolution read.

Apart from the murder case, the charges for violation of Article 129 (search warrants maliciously obtained) against Laraga, Abellanosa, and Olendan, and the charges for violation of Article 183 (perjury)against Olendan were dismissed.