PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he believes the “police version” on the killing of Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa inside his jail cell, which senators suspect was “premeditated.”
Duterte defended the raiding team of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) that killed Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap, saying the November 5 pre-dawn raid of the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City, Leyte was a legitimate police operation.
“Let me state my case as the Chief Executive of the Executive branch. I believe in the version of the police,” the President said in a news conference in Davao City following his arrival from an official visit to Malaysia.
But he added: “[If] they have evidence to prove otherwise, then a case should be filed against the police.”
Authorities claimed Espinosa, who was among local government executives linked by the President to illegal drugs, was shot after he fought back while being served a search warrant. The raiding team reported finding guns and sachets of shabu.
Citing the CIDG team’s sequence of events, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, on Thursday said the shooting appeared “premeditated.”
Duterte said he was taking responsibility for policemen waging his war on illegal drugs.
“Natural, utos ko `yon e. [Naturally, it was my order]. The fight against drugs is mine. It was not somebody else’s order,” the President said.
He then reiterated the assurances he had given to the police that he would protect them against charges, and said he was even willing to go to jail.
“If anybody should go to prison, I should be the one. Ako ang nag-utos e. So I assume full legal responsibility,” the President said.
Kerwin to be expatriated
Duterte also said Espinosa’s son, Kerwin, would be expatriated from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to testify because “he has plenty to tell.”
He said police would fetch Kerwin from Abu Dhabi in the UAE, where he had been detained since his arrest on October 17.
“I guarantee you he will be brought back … he will be repatriated. I’m sure of that,” Duterte said.
Father and son had been tagged as drug lords by the President, who assumed office on June 30 with the promise to wage a relentless anti-narcotics campaign.
A leading critic of the drug war, Sen. Leila de Lima, decried the President’s defense of the CIDG team that killed Espinosa, and said the International Criminal Court should take note of it.
“It’s an unfortunate, deplorable state of affairs in our country today to be witnessing these brazen acts of impunity, and with a Chief Executive empowering abusive and violent policemen, by continuing to protect said policemen and their gross misconduct in carrying out attacks against civilians,” de Lima said in a text message on Friday.
“I think the President has a tendency to be willfully blind where he feels it would reflect badly on him and his ‘War on Drugs,’” she added.
Senator Grace Poe said the President’s statement ran counter to his earlier vow to not tolerate any official of the government, including the police, who would be found violating the law.