MANILA - Several senators on Tuesday slammed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre for downgrading the charges against policemen tagged in the slay of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa in his cell last November.
"Secretary Aguirre told us under oath here in the Senate that he himself considers the killing as premeditated. He even pointed out that the conduct of Espinosa's arrest was not consistent with the PNP's procedures," Senate Minority leader Franklin Drilon said in a statement.
Murder charges against 19 policemen linked to the killing of Espinosa were downgraded to the bailable offense of homicide because of the absence of evident premeditation, Aguirre said.
"Ang pagkakaalam ko po, nawala yung evident premeditation at ang nakita lang nila may conspiracy to commit the crime," Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said in an interview on radio DZMM.
During a congressional probe on the Espinosa slay, Aguirre even labeled the operation as an "overkill" considering that 19 policemen served the search warrant for a single weapon at a provincial jail when three or four persons could have done the job, Drilon said.
The officers posted bail last Friday after the charge was amended to homicide.
"From being the fake news king of Padre Faura, Secretary Aguirre is also now immortalized as the DoJ's flip-flop king," Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement.
"By downgrading the charges against the accused in the Espinosa killing, Secretary Aguirre also effectively further downgraded his reputation and integrity before the public's eyes," Hontiveros added.
Senators said Aguirre will be summoned to the Senate "to explain his department's decision to downgrade the charges of the accused."
This was not the first time Aguirre earned the ire of senators.
Earlier this month, the justice secretary was asked by lawmakers to apologize after he tagged several senators and politicians as the brains behind the Maute group's rampage in Marawi City.
Senator Grace Poe earlier said she plans to summon Aguirre to the Senate to explain why he keeps on using fake news as a basis for his exposés.
"This may be the last straw for many of us. We cannot allow Secretary Aguirre to continue to toy around with our justice system. Enough's enough," Hontiveros said.
ABS-CBN News tried to get the side of Aguirre on the issue, but the justice chief did not return our calls and text messages.