MANILA - The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday denied that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the force to put back on active duty police officers linked to the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., which lawmakers had earlier ruled a murder.
Supt. Marvin Marcos and 18 others were earlier suspended for the Nov. 5, 2016 shooting of Espinosa, a drug suspect, and his fellow inmate Raul Yap in a pre-dawn operation in their jail cell to supposedly serve search warrants.
The officers, who managed to make bail after murder charges against them were downgraded to homicide, are set to be reinstated, with Marcos expected to head the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Soccsksargen.
The move drew flak from several senators.
Duterte had several times vowed to pardon Marcos and his team.
PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said due process was followed in the accused officers' case, and that PNP Chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa only wanted the men's rights upheld.
"Automatic 'yung sa status ng pulis at aktibo na nakasuhan ng non-bailable offense at merong warrant of arrest at iko-commit ka sa isang detention facility. Automatic po 'yung 'pag-issue ng LOA [leave of absence] status," Carlos said.
"At dahil na-downgrade to homicide so nakapagbail sila, karapatan nila magpyansa, so ni-lift 'yung kanilang LOA para sila ay nasa control at sila pa rin ay miyembro ng PNP," he added.
Carlos said there was no special treatment for the accused police officers.
"Sana nga po maintindihan po nila na ito ho 'yung established procedure, hindi ho kami lumalabag sa established procedure and it happened [na] naging favorable doon sa akusadong pulis. I hope they see na ganun," he said.
"Ang sinasabi ni Chief PNP, ayaw ho natin ma-violate 'yung karapatan nila. Bigyan din natin sila ng due process, at ito 'yung procedure. At the end of the day, ayaw ho namin na matapos 'yung termino ni Chief PNP, magpapalipas ng panahon, because of technicality, mare-reverse pa, kaya maingat ho tayo doon sa proseso," he added.
Marcos and his men have a pending reconsideration plea on their downgraded indictment and are still facing administrative cases before the PNP-Internal Affairs Service.
"Hintayin ho natin yung magiging decision doon sa MR [motion for reconsideration], at malalaman natin 'yung magiging estado nila. Right now, it is based on the order of the lifting of automatic LOA that placed them on duty status," Carlos said.
He said the officer's return to work would not be permanent as they may still face dismissal if found guilty of the criminal and administrative charges against them.
Last year, two Senate committees and the National Bureau of Investigation said in separate reports that Espinosa's killing was "premeditated" by the police to cover up their involvement in illegal drug activities.
The slain mayor's son Kerwin, who confessed to being a drug dealer in the region, testified during a Senate inquiry that Marcos was on his payroll- an allegation that the officer tearfully denied.