MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is still standing by the policemen tagged in the questionable killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., despite a finding that it was "premeditated."
Duterte dismissed a Senate joint committee report which concluded that Espinosa’s slay was "premeditated and with abuse of authority" on the part of the police operatives.
“If it's done in the performance of duties and it went out of hand, I said I’ll support the police,” Duterte said in a news conference in Malacañang.
“I don’t care if there is even a thousand committees. I will insist on the truthfulness of the police and I will defend them. Basta huwag lang yung abuso.”
Espinosa was killed in November last year inside his cell, allegedly after shooting it out with the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) – Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8, led by Supt. Marvin Marcos.
However, an investigation by the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs revealed irregularities in the police operation that led to Espinosa’s death.
The National Bureau of Investigation also concluded that Espinosa's killing was a rubout.
In their joint report, the Senate panels cited the testimony of Espinosa's son, self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin, who claimed that the police officials who served the search warrant at his father's cell at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail received payoffs from him.
Among those he named were CIDG-8 chief Supt. Marvin Marcos, Chief Inspector Leo Laraga, and Supt. Santi Noel Matira.
"Although the Committees recognize and give due respect to the authority of the courts to determine the guilt of the police officers involved in the operation, the Committees are convinced that the circumstances point out to a systematic 'clean up' made on any living trace that may reveal their involvement in the Espinosa drug trade," they said in a joint report published on the Senate website.
The Senate committees also recommended that Duterte should not micromanage the affairs of the government, especially the police force headed by Director General Rolando Dela Rosa.
The committees noted the decision of President Duterte to recall the order of Dela Rosa relieving Supt. Marcos and his men from the CIDG-8
Asked to react to this advice, Duterte said the public should just wait for the result of the case filed against Marcos and his men.
“Let us just wait if the case is filed in court. That would be the proper [forum] where we can discuss it thoroughly. I-demanda nila okay lang iyan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III noted that the committees' findings “are not yet Senate findings.”
“They will have to subjected to plenary discussion and approval by the body,” he said.