Cop called SOCO before Espinosa was killed

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 10 2016 07:16 PM | Updated as of Nov 11 2016 02:35 AM

Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte lies dead inside his cell at the Baybay City Sub Provincial Jail. Photo courtesy of the CIDG Region 8.

Lacson: Killing 'premeditated'

MANILA (UPDATED) – Leyte policemen called Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) even before the fatal raid in the detention cell of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa last Saturday. 

“Para kayong tumatawag ng punerarya, wala pang enkwentro,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson after discovering that Superintendent Santi Noel Matira requested that a SOCO team be sent by the regional headquarters to Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail in Leyte, where Espinosa was subsequently killed.

Espinosa was killed in a pre-dawn raid at the sub-provincial jail allegedly after putting up a fight against Leyte policemen, who were serving a search warrant.

But witnesses disputed the raiding team’s claim, with one inmate saying the mayor pleaded for his life and a gun may have been planted on his lifeless body.

Matira said he could not recall what time he made the request for a SOCO team, but a record on the logbook of the Regional Tactical Operations Center (RTOC) by Police Officer 2 Jennifer Monge showed that Matira called at 3:49 a.m. to make such a request.

Based on the timeline provided by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Region 8, which led the raid, the operatives were only able to enter the jail premises at 4:30 a.m., nearly an hour after the supposed call to request for a SOCO team was made.

Lacson also noted that apart from the call to the RTOC, Matira also made a call to another police station to make sure that a forensics team was on its way.

“There’s one word to describe this – premeditated,” Lacson said of the circumstances surrounding the fatal raid.

PNP regional head, Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, noted that the presence of SOCO personnel is only required when there is an actual crime scene to be processed.

When Lacson asked Matira to turn over his cellphone for inspection, Matira declined and invoked his right to privacy and self-incrimination.

"Against self-incrimination? You don’t want to be incriminated kasi may mga incriminating contents sa cellphone mo? I just want to make it clear. Is that it?” Lacson asked Matira.

“Not necessary (sic) your honor,” Matira responded.

PNP CIDG Region 8 chief Supt. Marvin Marcos, meanwhile, said the timeline they provided before the Senate were just estimates.

PNP Deputy Chief for Operations Benjamin Magalong, meanwhile, said that Matira's request for SOCO ahead of the raid was one of the "glaring" findings discovered during their case conference. 

After the hearing, Lacson told reporters that there are “telltale signs” that the search warrant against Espinosa was used to make it appear that the killing of the mayor was a result of a legitimate operation.

“As of now, may mga indication na yung operation, hindi maayos. Meaning, kanina nakapagbitaw na salita na premeditated. Ang telling doon, why would they call SOCO at a time na hindi pa sila nakakapasok? " Lacson said.

“And then there are telltale signs na ginamit lang yung search warrant para magkaroon ng semblance na legitimate yung operation. That's the observation, hindi lang ako but it's being shared by the other members, and those who witnessed the hearing kanina, iyun din ang magiging observation."