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Senators frown on Duterte pardon for 19 cops in mayor’s killing

Supt. Marvin Marcos (right) and one of his coaccused in the murder of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. arrive at the court that issued arrest warrants for them. —ROBERT DEJON

Supt. Marvin Marcos (right) and one of his coaccused in the murder of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. arrive at the court that issued arrest warrants for them. —ROBERT DEJON

Senators on Thursday frowned upon President Duterte’s insistence on granting absolute pardon to policemen charged with the murder of Albuera, Leyte, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., saying it could give law enforcers the notion that they had blanket authority to kill drug suspects.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Mr. Duterte’s attempt to clear the policemen led by Supt. Marvin Marcos was “another proof” that the killings in the President’s brutal war on drugs were state-sponsored.

“As to the policemen who would be encouraged to follow Duterte’s illegal orders, they are forewarned that they would eventually answer for all these crimes,” Trillanes said in a statement. “Duterte won’t be in power forever.”

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Absolute pardon

In a speech to local officials in Socorro, Oriental Mindoro, on Wednesday, Mr. Duterte said policemen charged with killing drug suspects could just plead guilty and he would grant them absolute pardon.

Mr. Duterte said presidential pardon was his “only weapon” against “harassment of government men.”

Marcos and 18 other policemen are detained, facing murder charges for the killing of Espinosa and another inmate during a search warrant raid on the Leyte subprovincial jail last Nov. 5.

Espinosa was detained on drug charges, and a National Bureau of Investigation probe showed that the policemen deliberately killed the mayor to cover up their links to his son, confessed drug boss Kerwin Espinosa.

The policemen claimed they raided the jail to search the cells of Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap, for drugs and weapons.

They said Espinosa and Yap fired on them, forcing them to fire back, killing the two men.

The Senate also investigated the death of Espinosa and found that the mayor’s killing was “premeditated.”

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The younger Espinosa testified at the Senate inquiry, affirming that the policemen were on his payroll.

Promise of protection

Mr. Duterte, however, said on Wednesday that he believed the policemen’s version of the story.

“Now they have been charged with murder, I will support them,” he said.

Mr. Duterte said he had instructed the police and the military to arrest drug suspects and shoot them if they resisted arrest and promised them that he would protect them if charges were brought against them.

“Any policeman or military man charged [with] killing those bastards, they will have my protection. You can charge them with anything,” he said.

Constitutional

“I will have an exhibition. You know what that would be, congressman? They go to court and I say no more trial. Plead guilty—guilty. Bring them to the judge, pardon, absolute,” he said.

He said the grant of presidential pardon was provided for in the Constitution.

The 1987 Constitution states: “Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.”

Wrong message

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs that investigated Espinosa’s murder, said on Thursday that he disagreed with Mr. Duterte “announcing [that he would pardon Marcos and his men] to all and sundry and prematurely at that, because it sends a very wrong message to law enforcement people.”

“That could give them the impression of a blanket authority to murder illegal drug suspects and, worse, from somebody who has actually the legal authority to grant [pardons],” Lacson said.

Sen. Grace Poe described as “unfortunate” Mr. Duterte’s persistent defense of the Leyte policemen, “as it counters all our efforts to strengthen our legal institutions to ensure that only the guilty are prosecuted and convicted after a judicial process.”

“It could send a wrong signal to law enforcers that while they may be enforcing legal orders from their superiors, they could altogether ignore the rule of law in properly carrying out such orders knowing that pardon awaits them,” she said.

Sen. Bam Aquino said he found disturbing Mr. Duterte’s remarks, as these appeared to show there were people who were “above the law.”

Aquino said Mr. Duterte should let the judicial process to proceed before promising pardons.

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TAGS: Espinos killing, extrajudicial killings, Marvin Marcos, Rodrigo Duterte, Rolando Espinosa Sr., war on drugs
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