There were some confusing signals at first. But then sanity and due process prevailed.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday declared that he still believes the version of the Eastern Visayas police in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa.
Duterte made the remark after a Senate joint committee report submitted its finding that the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 operatives killed Espinosa with premeditation, in an attempt to cover up their involvement in illegal drug trafficking in East Visayas.
Duterte said: “If it’s done in the performance of duty, I said I support them. I will believe the police more than other people.”
The President’s words are unfortunate. What is fortunate is that they have not been allowed to prevail over the process of justice. In the end, they hardly seemed to matter.
Without regard to DU30’s words, a court issued a warrant of arrest against Supt. Marvin Marcos and 19 other police officers involved in the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
Also, with little fuss over what DU 30 said, the warrant will be duly served and executed; and the accused policemen, who are all already in custody, will be formally arrested and forthwith readied for formal trial.
We cannot emphasize enough the great importance of this development to the integrity of our system of criminal justice and the independence of the judiciary in our country. This signifies that the system truly works. And the contrary wishes of the President, if true, may not deter or change the process.
The dead mayor will have his due. And the accused policemen must undergo the rigors of trial, and defend themselves as best they can.
This is the final process that the nation needs to see successfully prosecuted and concluded.
We hope together with many of our people that the President will learn to respect this action of our justice system. He should take note that what precipitated the commission of this crime was the attempt of the accused policemen to hide their complicity in the traffic of illegal drugs. As such, the accused were among the suspects who were being targeted by the war on illegal drugs. In that case, he should not be unhappy about the turn of events.
Secondly, this should also encourage the President to review and withdraw his blanket promise to policemen that he would protect them if they are indicted for committing in a crime while executing a lawful order in connection with the drug war. The promise was misguided and invites abuse
We should also remember that the Espinosa murder has been investigated extensively by several probing bodies, and their common conclusion was that police operatives of PNP CIDG-8 committed the crime.
Highly prominent was the investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI),which was the first to return a conclusion finding that Espinosa’s killing was a rub-out.
We are also pleased to note the professional and firm manner with which PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa is handling the arrest warrant. Instead of waiting for instructions from DU30, he has moved to have the warrants served. And he announced to the media that the warrants were issued during the weekend.
These indications of normality in the justice system are a big plus for the campaign for law and order, and reform of our system of criminal justice.
We have a lot to do before we can be satisfied. But we should be pleased and encouraged that the various parts of our justice system are beginning to work, and our police and justice officials are determined to make them work.
Given this, we can now hope that the late Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who died in an alleged shootout on November 5, 2016, inside a jail cell, will get his measure of justice.
We can also begin to hope that corruption and abuse inside the national police will be stopped and corrected.
It has taken a lot of time and effort, but at long last, the nation is seeing an end to its anguish over the sensational killing of a former mayor inside a city prison. In this one, crime will not pay.