SENATOR Panfilo Lacson suspects that Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa may have been summarily executed along with another inmate in their jail cells, and joined various quarters in calling for an investigation into the brazen killing.
Lacson said it was possible Espinosa, who was suspected of trafficking in illegal drugs with his son Kerwin in Eastern Visayas, was silenced to “cover up for certain personalities,” given that the town mayor’s lawyer was also killed in August.
“Offhand, I can smell EJK (extra-judicial killing), and I base my conclusion on the circumstances that surround the killing,” said Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief who himself had faced rubout charges.
“I can’t understand for the life of me: 1) how a prisoner inside a prison cell could even think of fighting back against police officers serving a warrant for his arrest; 2) why the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) officers and not the court personnel, say, just the sheriff served the warrant, since he (Espinosa) was detained anyway; 3) why there was a need to serve the warrant personally on Mayor Espinosa when they could simply coordinate with the warden; 4) The only other prisoner inside the same cell was also killed, therefore no witness could testify,” Lacson said in a statement.
Lacson said he would discuss the resumption of a Senate justice committee probe into extrajudicial killings, focusing on the Espinosa killing, with the panel chairman, Sen. Richard Gordon on Monday.
“I think that incident is the biggest challenge to the credibility of the PNP that could affect even the other operations involving drug suspects killed under similarly suspicious circumstances,” he said.
Gordon said he was puzzled by the killing of Espinosa inside the Baybay City, Leyte sub-provincial jail, and called on the police to investigate.
“This is a dagger in the heart of the criminal justice system as it appears that even those who are in the custody of the law are no longer safe,” the senator said in a statement.
VACC wants probe
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Saturday condemned Espinosa’s killing and urged President Rodrigo Duterte to “conduct a deeper investigation on how firearms are continuously entering various jails in the country.”
On Friday, VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez made an urgent appeal to Duterte to quickly address the rising death toll in the face of the government’s war against illegal drugs.
House probe shot down
Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat, an opposition lawmaker, said he would ask the House of Representatives to conduct an inquiry.
“PNP says the mayor was killed inside prison while fighting back with a gun as he was about to be served a warrant. Sino niloko n’yo [Who are you trying to fool here]?” he said.
“Serving a warrant at 4 a.m. to someone in prison already then saying he fought back with a gun and got killed in prison. So many irregularities in that story,” he added.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte however quickly shot down Baguilat’s proposal.
“That is not our job. That is the concern of the DOJ (Department of Justice), NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) or the police,” Alvarez said in a text message.
The Commission on Human Rights vowed to conduct its own probe into the killing.
Espinosa’s death “raises serious questions on the responsibility of the State to protect persons deprived of liberty, especially in relation to the primordial right to life of every human being.”