There is no room for doubt about this blatant injury to our Republic.
The killing last Saturday of Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside his jail cell at the Baybay, Leyte provincial jail, is another blow to the rule of law in our country.
The murder of Espinosa, who was about—or was expected — to tell all about the drug lords is nothing less than their challenge to President Duterte and his war on drugs.
The drug lords are also thumbing their noses at the Philippine National Police or, worse, posing a mailed-fist challenge to the integrity and credibility of the PNP.
When Mayor Espinosa saw his name in DU30’s first list of drug suspects, drug lords, drug pushers and drug coddlers, he rushed to Manila to surrender personally to PNP director- general Ronald de la Rosa, on the grounds that he feared for his life. He figured that he would be more safe in the custody of our police, than being at liberty and out on his own.
But safe he was not, it has turned out. Jail did not prove to be a sanctuary. It was at the hands of the police that he met his death.
The official explanation that he tried to shoot it out with lawmen from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) who were serving him a search warrant, is so unbelievable, it’s farcical.
The PNP’s version of events makes no sense. Espinosa’s death has all the marks of an execution — an extra-judicial killing.
It gets worse, because this incident now puts under grave doubt all the past police operations where drug suspects were killed under similarly suspicious circumstances.
It lends credence to the fears of national and international groups, including the United Nations, that the drug war has gone out of whack and state authorities may not be in full control of the situation.
For Malacañang to say that Espinosa’s death is unfortunate and that an investigation is under way is not enough.
Something more is urgently needed.
President Duterte himself should take the lead in clearing up this mess.
He should direct the Secretary of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation and all our law enforcement agencies to devote all their efforts to the service of bringing out the facts and the truth about this incident.
We do not subscribe to the view, as propounded by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, that such an investigation can best be carried out by a Senate committee inquiry. We understand why he does not trust the PNP to do an honest and thorough job of finding out the truth about this murder. He himself explained that while he loves the PNP, which is his original home as a public servant, he does not expect it to under the circumstances to do the absolutely right thing in this case.
But the Senate is not the right vehicle for such an investigation. We need rather the service of people who have made crime investigation, crime detection and crime solution their life’s work and their career, men and women who are in fact already in government service, working in agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice.
We think the PNP should investigate—but only after its topmost officials have made a solemn vow to make sure the case will be handled with the utmost honesty, rigor and devotion to the truth.
This is work for professional investigators, not politicians. But we believe the press, including TV cameras, should look over the shoulders of the investigators while they do their thing.
That will inexorably lead to the strengthening of our criminal justice system, which has often been led from the straight way when investigators were allowed to work in the dark.