MANILA- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II stands by his department’s decision to downgrade murder charges against 19 cops involved in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa to the bailable offense of homicide.
“We have to stand by the resolution of my department. We have to presume regularity in the performance of our duties,” he told ANC Wednesday.
Aguirre, however, emphasized that he was not involved in his department’s resolution to downgrade the charges.
“I did not issue the resolution. I did not sign the resolution. I did not interfere or intervene in the issuance of the resolution,” he said.
The DOJ, in a review resolution on May 29, 2017, dismissed two counts of murder against members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 led by Supt. Marvin Marcos, indicting them instead for homicide, a lesser and bailable offense.
This allowed Marcos to post bail on June 16.
The justice chief previously explained that the charges were downgraded due to the absence of evident premeditation.
The Senate minority bloc earlier filed a resolution expressing "grave concern of the Senate" over developments in the Espinosa slay case, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros. The senators also want Aguirre to attend the hearing.
Aguirre said he was willing to attend the inquiry if invited.
“At any time. I’m willing to face anybody as long as they do it if I’m called. I have nothing to hide,’” he said.
The Senate last year investigated Espinosa's death and found that the slay was "premeditated and with abuse of authority" on the part of police operatives.
Aguirre, who admitted that he had not studied the details of the Espinosa slay when he appeared before the Senate, said the inquiry was done too early.
“When I appeared before the Senate, I had not studied these things. You will notice that I was being goaded by some senators to agree with them," he said.
"My point is at the time when that Senate investigation was being held napaka-aga pa. The respondents, the Marcos and company, they were not able to dubmit their defense, their counter-affidavits," he said.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon blasted the DOJ's decision, saying "there is a conspiracy to go around the rule of law, and it’s really unfortunate because this encourages impunity."
Aguirre said critics of the decision could bring their complaint to court as he maintained that his department was just following procedure.
“If they do not agree, they could file a motion for reconsideration or file the appropriate motion with the court to correct what they perceived to be wrong. At this stage we are just following the procedure, the practice,” he said.
Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap, were killed during a dawn operation of a CIDG-8 team at their cell at the Leyte sub-provincial jail on Nov. 5, 2016.
The officers, serving warrants for for alleged possession of a firearm and illegal drugs, alleged that the inmates tried to fight back, prompting them to fire.