'Bato' defends 'not so normal' return of Espinosa slay cops

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2017 11:54 AM | Updated as of Jul 26 2017 12:54 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa is standing by his decision to reassign police officers linked to the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.

Dela Rosa, during a Senate inquiry Wednesday, admitted that putting Supt. Marvin Marcos and his 18 men back to full duty, given the gravity of accusations against them, is "not so normal" but stressed that the move is legal. 

"Not so normal, your honor. But ginawa ko," the PNP chief said in response to Senator Bam Aquino's question that Supt. Marcos and his men could have been given office duties instead of putting them back on duty. 

Dela Rosa said Marcos and his men were not reinstated but reassigned after they posted bail for homicide charges against them -- charges that have been downgraded from murder.

He said he used the findings of the PNP's Internal Affairs Service (IAS), which found a "conspiracy to kill" among the cops who conducted the raid on Espinosa's cell. 

PNP-IAS Insp. Gen. Alfegar Triambulo said they found a "conspiracy" among the operatives because of their "synchronized actions." 

"Wala pong direct evidence na merong agreement [with Supt. Marcos] prior to the implementation of the warrant that resulted to the death of Espinosa and Yap. Pero 'yung synchronized actions ng operatives doon, 'yun ang pinagbasehan namin na conspiracy exists," Triambulo said. 

The IAS has recommended a 4-month suspension for Supt. Marcos due to his command responsibility on the raid that led to Espinosa's death.

Dela Rosa, meanwhile, said Supt. Marcos has filed a motion for reconsideration which is the reason why the suspension is not yet served.

The country's top cop also said he heeded President Rodrigo Duterte's media pronouncements that the cops should be brought back to the field so they can be of use to the police force.

"Palaging sinasabi ni Presidente na gamitin mo 'yung mga tao na 'yan. Sayang! We lack people on the ground. Sumusweldo 'yang mga tao na 'yan," he said.

Aquino, for his part, noted a seeming flipflop on the part of Dela Rosa who earlier said Duterte's statements did not affect their "independent" investigation on the alleged involvement of the officers in the slay of Espinosa. 

But the PNP chief quickly clarified that Duterte had no influence only as far as the case is concerned. He said he sees nothing wrong with the President's pronouncements, especially because they lack cops on the field. 

BATO: COPS HAVE RIGHTS, TOO 

"Kung gumawa ka ng mali, as long as okay ka sa mga nasa taas, babalik ka rin na parang walang nangayri. That's the signal that's being sent to the public. Can you comment on that?" Aquino asked. 

"Siguro kung na-convict talaga siya sa court at ibinalik natin, mukhang may bad signal. Pero kung ganoon na dumaan siya sa proseso, nakapag-bail bond sila. Nakulong na nga sila," Dela Rosa responded. 

The PNP chief added that if ordinary suspects are entitled to due process, police suspects should be entitled to these rights, too. 

He said he will never allow impunity as long as he leads the police force.

"That is leading towards impunity your honor. Hindi po mangyayari yan," assured Dela Rosa.

Aquino for his final point said that Dela Rosa is putting the credibility of the PNP at risk in reassigning the cops, given that findings by government agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation say the police officers should be charged with murder.