November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Pimentel: Senate to look into PNP budget in light of Espinosa ‘murder’

SENATE President Aquilino L. Pimentel III in a statement on Monday said the November 2016 raid that killed a city mayor allegedly involved in drug-trafficking in central Philippines was “murder.”

The leader of the unit in charge of that operation, Police Superintendent Marvin Wynn Marcos, had been charged with murder, together with his men in the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 8. But the charges were since downgraded to homicide, in connection with the Nov. 5, 2016 raid at the Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail in Leyte that led to the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. and his fellow inmate, Raul Yap.

An inquiry by the National Bureau of Investigation in December that year said the incident was a “rubout.”

In a text message to reporters yesterday, Mr. Pimentel said from the point-of-view of the Senate, which also conducted its inquiry, “murder was committed.”

He added that after the Justice department indicted Mr. Marcos with homicide, the agency should be able to “defend such decision” in any investigation that the Senate may conduct or during the upcoming deliberations on the department’s budget.

“In the continuing investigation and public discussion of this matter, we cannot avoid discussing the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) policies on discipline, internal affairs, the treatment of officers facing serious criminal cases, and human rights,” Mr. Pimentel said.

“The PNP should likewise be prepared to discuss all of these issues especially during the budget deliberations where the PNP’s failure to solve the numerous killings all over the country will surely also be raised,” he added.

“The killing of Mayor Espinosa, Sr., and all matters related to it, are matters imbued with public interest. Hence the Senate’s exercise of its oversight powers over our justice system and law enforcement is called for.”

Mr. Marcos and his co-accused were reportedly reinstated last week, in keeping with Mr. Duterte’s avowed order, but this was denied by the PNP.

Mr. Marcos’s charges were lowered by the Office of the Justice Secretary last month to homicide from the previous non-bailable offense of murder because “the evidence on record do not support the allegation of evident premeditation.”

The PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS) earlier recommended in its report the suspension of Mr. Marcos and the other policemen involved. -- Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral, with Jil Danielle M. Caro