Twenty-three of 24 cops tagged in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa at a sub-provincial jail last November 5 appeared at the preliminary investigation hearing of the criminal charges against them before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Led by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 (PNP-CIDG 8) former chief, Supt. Marvin Marcos, the policemen face multiple murder, robbery, malicious procurement of search warrant, and perjury charges. The complaint was filed by Atty. Leilani Villarino, Espinosa's legal cousel; and Atty. Edgardo C.
Cordeno, Leyte Provincial Administrator, through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The policemen attempted to close the proceedings to journalists, even causing the hearing venue to be locked to news teams. They were, however, prevailed upon by the panel of investigating prosecutors, led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor (SASP) Lilian Doris Alejo and Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre II, who ordered that the proceedings be open for media coverage.
"I'd like to remind respondents that you are not in the Philippine National Police, you are in the Department of Justice," Alejo told respondent policemen.
Fourteen of the policemen present were not represented by lawyers, leading the panel of prosecutors to extend the filing of their respective counter-affidavits from January 8 to January 23. The next hearing is also set on the said day, at 10 am.
"If you cannot secure the services of lawyers, the panel will allow you to write down your defense in a yellow pad paper, either in English or Filipino, and subscribe it before us. Do not worry, we will be fair; we will not be influenced by anybody," Alejo said.
Respondents PO2 Niel Patrimonio Centino and Paul Olendan, a former inmate and the witness of the police in their application for search warrants for the cells of Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap, who was also killed in the police operation, failed to appear in the hearing.
The warrant for Espinosa was for his alleged possession of a firearm, while the warrant for Yap was for alleged possession of illegal drugs.
The other members of the DOJ panel are SASP Olivia L. Torrevillas, Assistant State Prosecutor (ASP) Jinky Dedumo, ASP Karla Cabel, and Prosecution Attorney Moises Acayan.
Espinosa was shot dead in a rubout incident, according to the NBI, contrary to respondents' claims that what took place was a shootout.
Respondents claim Espinosa and Yap resisted and put up a fight.
The operation and deaths of the two inmates became the subject of a congressional inquiry, with senators questioning the regularity of the application for the search warrants in a government-owned jail facility, as well as the circumstances behind the killing of Espinosa and Yap.