THERE is a tendency to connect the recent killing of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog to that of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa. Both men were mayors that President Rodrigo Duterte tagged last year as narco-politicians and both were killed in police raids conducted as part of his bloody war on illegal drugs.
But Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, immediately spotted the key difference.
“Whatever the circumstances of the deaths, at least this time, the mayor and the others killed were not under detention in a government facility,” Lacson said upon learning of Parojinog’s death at the hands of a police raiding team.
Lacson was referring to the fact that Espinosa was killed while under government custody in November last year inside his jail cell in a Leyte sub-provincial jail, while Parojinog was killed in his home, presumably in a shootout with the police.
While we cannot say for certain that the Ozamiz City raid was aboveboard, we can deduce by the circumstances alone that there was certainly something highly irregular in last year’s killing of Espinosa in his jail cell. So irregular, in fact, that the National Bureau of Investigation and the Senate both concluded that Espinosa was murdered, a victim of summary execution, and that what transpired in the Leyte jail was a rubout, not a shootout.
Hauled before the Senate, police who participated in the raid failed to answer so many troubling questions. Why was there a need to execute a search warrant, when Espinosa was already in government custody? Why was the warrant being served at 4 a.m.? How did the detained mayor obtain a gun with which to fire on the raiding team? And if he had a gun, what person in his right mind would choose to shoot it out with 18 armed policemen, within the narrow confines on a jail cell?
To all this, we add one more question for the Justice Department. Why did Undersecretary Reynante Orceo downgrade the charges against the leader of the raiding team, Supt. Marvin Marcos and his men, from murder to homicide? By what twisted logic did Orceo look at the evidence before him and decide that Espinosa had not been murdered?
Lacson, an administration ally, was outraged when the charges were downgraded, and even more irate when Marcos and his men were returned to active duty after serving a short, token suspension.
It is hardly any wonder that people have so little faith in the justice system, when errant police get a pass—even for what appears to be a poorly executed execution.