Usec who downgraded case vs Marcos may face graft raps
Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo may face graft charges for what a senator described as an “incredible” testimony he gave during Wednesday’s Senate inquiry into his actions downgrading the charges against police officers implicated in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. to homicide.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs to file an antigraft case against Orceo “at the very least because obviously he’s lying, his testimony is not credible at all and it’s part of the cover-up.”
After the hearing, both Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the committee, and Drilon expressed suspicion that the reversal of the murder charges against Marcos and his men was part of a cover-up to reinstate the police official and pave the way for his promotion as senior superintendent in six months.
“I am studying if he (Orceo) has liability under the antigraft law for what is [obviously] a cover-up,” Drilon told reporters on Wednesday following the three-hour hearing.
Downgrading the charges
At the hearing, Orceo insisted that he signed the resolution downgrading the murder charges against Supt. Marvin Marcos and 18 others to a lighter and bailable offense without the knowledge of his boss, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.
Lacson also raised doubts on the validity and legality of Orceo’s resolution, which apparently was issued beyond the period that the undersecretary was authorized to rule on petitions for review.
Lacson pointed to Department Order Circular No. 19, where Aguirre authorized Orceo and several other undersecretaries to resolve petitions for review filed within July 1 to Dec. 31, 2016.
A panel from the National Prosecution Service told the committee that it issued its resolution recommending the filing of murder charges against Marcos and his men on March 2 this year.
The resolution was transmitted to the respondents on March 6.
The petition for review was filed only on April 5, which Lacson pointed out was also beyond the 15-day period for respondents to file such.
“You could have dismissed it outright,” Lacson told Orceo.
But Orceo insisted that his actions were covered by Circular No. 003, which transferred the power to review petitions from state prosecutors to undersecretaries, including him.
“I still stand with conviction that I am authorized under this circular,” he said.
Drilon said there was obvious basis that the resolution downgrading Marcos and others’ murder charges was outside Orceo’s authority.
In a radio interview yesterday, he also brought up the need to summon Aguirre in the next hearing to shed light on his role in the downgrading of the charges against Marcos and his men.
The justice secretary did not show up during Wednesday’s hearing.
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