Aguirre says subordinate withdrew murder indictment
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday said he had nothing to do with the decision of his subordinate to withdraw the indictment for murder of 19 policemen tagged in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. inside his prison cell in November last year.
Courting another controversy, Aguirre said he was also willing to be grilled at a planned Senate inquiry into the downgrading of the criminal charges against Supt. Marvin Marcos and other policemen who raided Baybay Subprovincial Jail where Espinosa and fellow inmate Raul Yap were gunned down.
Three months before the incident, President Duterte had issued a shoot-to-kill order versus Espinosa and his son, suspected drug kingpin Kerwin, for allegedly running the illegal drug trade in Eastern Visayas.
“I did not have any hand in the drafting of (the) resolution being referred to by some senators,” Aguirre said in a statement.
“I was not the one who resolved the matter. I was not the one who wrote it. I was not the one who signed it,” he stressed.
Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes, the spokesperson of the Department of Justice (DOJ), said Aguirre respects the authority of the senators in conducting congressional inquiries.
“If invited to appear before the Senate, (Aguirre) will appear out of respect for a co-equal branch of government and a distinguished and hallowed institution,” Balmes said.
In a resolution dated May 29, Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo granted the petition for review filed by the accused policemen, revoking the murder charges against them and downgrading it to homicide, a bailable offense.
Under Republic Act No. 10071 or the Prosecution Service Act of 2010 and the 2008 Revised Manual for Prosecutors, such an appeal may only be filed before the Office of the Secretary of the justice department.
Orceo, who belong’s to the Lex Talionis fraternity which also counts Aguirre and Mr. Duterte as members, said he opted to reverse the March 6 resolution of the DOJ state prosecutors since there was “no sufficient basis for the indictment of (the) respondents for murder.”
He said the conclusion of the National Bureau of Investigation, the DOJ’s primary law enforcement and investigation arm, that Espinosa and Yap were victims of a police rubout “cannot be given much weight as both of them were armed and fired their guns when the respondents implemented the two search warrants.”
“Proof of conspiracy does not imply the existence of evident premeditation,” Orceo said. “The rule is that evident premeditation may not be taken into account where, as here, conspiracy is not based on direct proof, but inferred from the acts of the accused in the perpetration of crime.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who led the Senate inquiry into Espinosa’s killing, said he would join Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and five other opposition senators in drafting a resolution calling for a hearing on the issue.
Drilon, a former justice secretary, said the DOJ’s flip-flopping was “an insult to the Senate.”
Aguirre said he had not seen the resolution issued by Orceo but stressed that the Senate could not compel the DOJ to reverse any of its orders.
“There was an appeal (filed by Marcos and the others). (We’re) just following a process. That’s the procedure in the DOJ,” he told reporters by mobile phone.
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