PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday vowed to protect the police who killed Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa in his jail cell even though the National Bureau of Investigation recommended the filing of murder and perjury charges against them for what it described as a rubout.
“I will not allow these guys to go to prison, even if the NBI says it was murder. After all, the NBI is under me, the Department of Justice,” Duterte said.
Duterte said he was more inclined to believe the police than the testimony of criminals, recalling his days as a mayor.
“I believe the police because we mayors, if there’s a problem who would you believe in, the police or a criminal?” the President said.
“For me, the last thing the police said to me, that is the truth... The NBI said it is murder, but the police said that he [Espinosa] fought back. In all these versions, I believe that of the police. Why would I sacrifice the police?” he said.
On Tuesday, the NBI said it recommended filing murder and perjury charges against members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-Region 8, who were behind the death of Mayor Espinosa and inmate Raul Yap. Both were in their jail cells when the police raiding team arrived at the Baybay City provincial jail to execute a search warrant at 4 a.m.
The NBI recommendation was transmitted to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on December 2, but made public only on Tuesday.
Aguirre was unavailable for comment on Duterte’s statement exonerating the CIDG raiding team or the NBI’s recommendation to file charges.
Among those identified for the filing of murder charges was Supt. Marvin Marcos, the head of the Region 8 Criminal Investigation and Detection Group who led the November 5 raid, and whom Duterte had ordered reinstated on the same day he was relieved over allegations that he accepted drug payoffs.
Duterte had earlier admitted that he was the one who ordered PNP Chief Roland dela Rosa not to remove the embattled Marcos for him to pursue further verification on his links to the illegal drug trade.
In a speech last Monday, Duterte said he does not need to explain his actions to have Marcos reinstated, saying that as chief executive, he could modify, amend or revoke any order.
NBI spokesman Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin told reporters that the CIDG operatives’ use of a search warrant at such an unholy hour was just a “cover of legitimacy” while they executed their plan.
Duterte, nonetheless, said he won’t interfere in whatever the NBI will do next after it releases its report.
“I don’t interfere. They have findings, good. File the case but I won’t leave the policemen implicated in the killing,” he said.
In Davao City, the President’s son, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte defended his father after Commission on Human Rights Chairman Jose Luis Martin Gascon said more drug suspects were killed under the Duterte administration than those killed under Martial Law.
The vice mayor said the statement was an “insult to those who died because of their political ideology.”
“The comparison made by CHR chairman Chito Gascon between the numbers of victims of Martial Law and drug personalities killed during police operations under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte was outrageous,” Paolo said.
He said that those killed during Martial Law and the Duterte administration’s war against drugs were not comparable.
“Being compared to the people whose lives were wasted on the evils of illegal drugs was an insult to those who died because of their political ideology,” he said.
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