That leather jacket

When I first saw the social media post of Vicky Garchitorena, a loyal Aquino supporter and vice president of the opposition Liberal Party, I wondered what she meant. “Why is he wearing a leather jacket?” Garchitorena asked, in reaction to a photo showing President Rodrigo Duterte when he made his first public appearance soon after taking several days off last week.

  I wondered why Garchitorena would comment on the fashion sense of Duterte, a longtime motorcycle enthusiast who must own several leather jackets. This was a president, after all, who routinely flouts ideas of what is fashionable or even sartorially acceptable, even at the most formal occasions.

Because if Garchitorena and her fellow LP members really wanted to talk haute couture, they should have commented, as well, on the pricey blue gown that their most prominent party member wore recently. And Vice President Leni Robredo was resplendent in her blue terno-inspired outfit during a fund-raising ball for the Fil-American Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles.

Robredo drew a lot of online flak for being in LA while Marawi City was burning and for revealing that all her talk about being one with the poorest of the poor was just cow manure. But you never heard Garchitorena—or any of her fellow fashion-conscious LP members—ask why Robredo wore that fancy gown, or even why she was at a fundraiser in La-La Land while terrorists are trying to establish an outpost of the Islamic caliphate in Marawi.

I gathered later that Garchitorena was really implying that Duterte was wearing a jacket even if he usually goes around in T-shirts because, to her mind, he may be hiding his arms or other parts of his body that could give signs of the true state of his health. Then I realized that she was not slamming Digong for his provinciano fashion but echoing the tales of conspirators who fervently wished that the President had died or was at least very seriously ill.

I knew then that it wasn’t Duterte’s hillbilly fashion sense that offended Garchitorena. It was the fact that he was still alive to torment them that did.

* * *

National police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa may hail it as a victory for him and his men in the fight against illegal drugs. But that is a simplistic view that doesn’t take into consideration the long-term damage to the police force that the Espinosa killing may have wreaked on the police’s cause.

There is simply no going around it: The Department of Justice must answer for the downgrading of the murder charges against 19 policemen who raided a detention center in Leyte and who killed a controversial town mayor arrested earlier on charges of involvement in illegal drug syndicates.

There are just too many questions raised by the decision of the department, after its review of the murder charges filed in connection with the cold-blooded killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., to make the lawmen liable for the lesser, bailable charge of homicide instead. And Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who had earlier agreed with a Senate recommendation that murder charges should be filed, must answer them.

Yesterday, Aguirre defended the downgrading by saying that his prosecutors had found no apparent premeditation on the part of the police raiders, led by Supt. Marvin Marcos and other members of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. But the facts of the case do not support Aguirre’s claim that Marcos and his team did not plan to liquidate Espinosa in his jail cell.

The Senate established that Marcos and his men were guilty of the premeditated murder of Espinosa and another detainee at the Baybay, Leyte sub-provincial jail in the early morning of Nov. 5 last year. The two Senate committees that investigated the case, led by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon, said in their joint report that Espinosa was silenced by “individuals who wanted their participation concealed” and that they killed Espinosa “through abuse of their authority.”

The Senate noted that Kerwin Espinosa, son of the mayor and an alleged big-time drug trafficker in the region, claimed that some of the policemen involved in the raid on the jail had been on his payroll. The circumstances of the raid, such as the timing and the indisputable fact that Espinosa was already incarcerated when Marcos and his men tried to arrest him again, also showed that the mayor was probably the victim of a rubout.

Dela Rosa cannot continue to delude himself by saying that the DoJ decision, which reversed the earlier findings that made Marcos and his men liable for murder, will help the fight against illegal drugs. The downgrading and the release of Marcos and his fellow cops, which took place while the entire nation’s attention was focused on the war against terrorists in Marawi City, sounds like a plan implemented from some rogue policemen’s playbook.

It was a suspicious raid made with nefarious motives, resulting in the execution of a key player (and possible star witness) of the lawmen’s deep involvement in illegal drug syndicates, which led to their even more scandalous exoneration. You can’t get more premeditated than that.

Espinosa, for all we know, may have really been the big-time drug trafficker that the police said he was. But now that he is dead and his killers are out on bail, I think we will never know just how involved the police were in his illegal operations.

Topics: Jojo Robles , That leather jacket , Vicky Garchitorena , Liberal Party , President Rodrigo Duterte , Vice President Leni Robredo , National police chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa , Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. , Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II
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