MANILA – Malacanang on Friday said it will go by the official results of the investigation surrounding the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., after President Rodrigo Duterte gave weight to the statements made by police involved in the operation.
"The investigation continues. But at this point he is simply saying, what he has already said, that he will stand by what the police has said. It is simply an assumption of regularity. He assumes that what the police have said is along the lines of regularity," said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella during a media briefing in Malacanang.
During a press conference in Davao City on Friday, Duterte stated that he believes the police's account on the fatal shooting of Espinosa inside his jail cell.
Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan aired its disagreement with the assessment of Duterte on the Espinosa case.
"The presumption of regularity cannot be accorded to the CIDG operatives who carried out the operation, considering what we know now about the questionable circumstances surrounding the operation," Bayan said in a statement.
Duterte, Bayan said, should instead wait for the results of the probe before issuing statements that may unwittingly influence the outcome of the probe.
"An impartial probe is necessary as there are already strong indications that the killing was premeditated. The President must realize that granting the presumption of regularity every time the PNP carries out questionable operations encourages impunity," said Bayan.
The group likewise urged the President to dig deeper as there are indications that the operation was meant to silence Espinosa and cover up the involvement of other personalities linked to the drug trade.
BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
For his part, Sen. Richard Gordon believes Duterte was defending his men by giving them the benefit of the doubt.
"I'm sure magiimbistiga yan. Dati yang piskal, matalino presidente natin. Makikita talaga niya na hindi tama yan. Saka syempre, ang unang reaction niya i-defend mga tauhan niya. Ako rin nag mayor, ang unang reaction ko is to give the benefit of the doubt."
"Yung emotion ng presidente syempre mataas, passion nya para sa law and order, mga kapulisan. Dapat, before he can be merciful, before he can be compassionate with law enforcement, he must be just," he said in an interview on DZMM on Friday morning.
Espinosa was shot dead together with another inmate, Raul Yap, during the pre-dawn operation of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 8 serving a search warrant against him on November 5.
But the manner in which the operation was carried out seemed to be premeditated, Gordon said.
"Ako, kumbinsido talagang premeditated, parang rubout ito," Gordon said. Based on the testimonies given by policemen during yesterday's Senate inquiry, it appears that masyadong garapal pagkatrabaho nila."
"I shouldn't even say that. Ang sasabihin ko simple lang: wala sa lugar yung ginawa nila. Wala sa batas yung ginawa nila. Wala sa procedure. Mismong kanilang mga commanders nagsasabi wala sa lugar, walang coordination, overwhelming use of force. Yung mga nakuhang mga baril kaduda-duda," Gordon said.
He pointed out that mere coordination would have prevented the death of Espinosa, the mayor who had information on those behind and those who benefited from the drug trade in the country.
"This is a man na nakakulong na may ibinigay na mga pangalan at maraming involved...kung papatayin mo yan, lalong magiimbistiga ang kapulisan at ang bayan natin magtatanong," he said.
"It really makes the country look very very bad from the law enforcement's point of view," said Gordon.