SENATOR Panfilo Lacson believes that the Philippine National Police (PNP) can carry out a credible investigation into the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa in his jail cell.
Lacson, who heads the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, expressed confidence that there will be no whitewash in the investigation even with the statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that he is standing by the police.
Duterte had said that he believes the story of the raiding team that killed Espinosa and that he is willing to rot in jail for the policemen who he said were merely doing their job.
The senator said he expects the President to change his position once he finds out that violations were committed by the police officers who killed Espinosa.
“It’s only a matter of explaining in detail to the President what really happened in Baybay, Leyte, for him to be enlightened and come up with necessary actions,” Lacson said in a radio interview Sunday.
The Senate last week held an inquiry into the slaying of Espinosa, and based on the testimonies of the police officers invited to the hearing, some senators came to the conclusion that the mayor’s killing was premeditated.
Lacson said the President will likely have a change of heart once he sees the report of the PNP and the testimonies gathered during the Senate investigation.
Asked if the position of Duterte could have an effect on the committee report that the Senate will come out with, Lacson said it is unlikely because the initial finding of the committee matches the findings of the PNP.
“Let’s just say that it will now be a choice for the President who to believe. Will he believe the operatives of the CIDG8 or the leadership of the PNP that is also conducting its investigation on the incident?” he said, referring to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
Lacson and several members of his committee cited inconsistencies in the testimonies of police officers involved in the operation. Senators learned during the investigation that the CIDG raiding team requested for Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) before they arrived at the Leyte sub-provincial jail where Espinosa was detained.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa has ordered the relief of the police officers who were part of the raiding team, including its chief, Supt. Marvin Marcos.
Lacson said his committee is trying to determine the reason why the mayor was killed and if there are other personalities involved or who wanted Espinosa silenced.
He admitted that lawmakers have several theories and speculations and these are not limited to the possible involvement of Marcos and Chief Insp. Leo Laraga, the head of the raiding team who shot and killed the mayor.
Lacson admitted obtaining information about the supposed connection between Marcos and Kerwin Espinosa, son of the slain mayor, aside from the police official’s relative who was listed on Espinosa’s “book”.
The name Leilani Jimenea cropped up during the Senate hearing. Based on the information obtained by senators, Jimenea was Marcos’ aunt who was allegedly receiving “payola” from the Espinosas.
Lacson said he also got information that Marcos’ wife received campaign funds from Espinosa when she ran for vice mayor of Pastrana, Leyte.
“I don’t know if she won, but according to reports the Espinosas made a contribution on her campaign and Supt. Marcos himself received the contribution from Espinosa,” Lacson said. Marcos, during the hearing, denied knowing the Espinosas.
Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Gordon sees the killing of Espinosa not only a huge setback in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs but also on efforts to encourage more witnesses to come out.
Gordon said Espinosa’s death inside his prison cell in the wee hours of November 5 could scare off other witnesses.
The chairman of the justice and human rights committee stressed that the mayor’s killing robbed citizens of justice because witnesses may now be afraid to come forward.
Espinosa surrendered to the PNP in August after his name was included in a list of government officials allegedly involved in illegal drugs.
At the time, he claimed to know some 30 lawmakers and police commanders involved in illegal drugs.
He subsequently left police custody and returned to work, but was arrested on October 5 over illegal drug and weapons charges.
“We were robbed of justice. He was considered a high-value target because of what he knows. But why was he detained in a facility controlled by the provincial government where some of its officials and even police officers were in his list?” Gordon said.