By Melito Salazar Jr.
The reinstatement of Police Superintendent Marvin Marcos to active service on orders of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his projected assignment as chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of Region 12 is a serious concern for those who believe in the Rule of Law. It will be recalled that Marcos along with 18 other members of the Philippine National Police were suspended administratively and charged with the killing of former Albuera, Leyte, Mayor Roland Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap, inside the Leyte Province extension jail in Baybay City.
As details of the killing surfaced, especially during the hearings of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson, the public was overwhelmingly of the view that Mayor Roland Espinosa had been murdered with Raul Yap as collateral damage. This public perception was further bolstered by the results of the investigation of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that indicated the strong possibility of a conspiracy. A disbelieving public could not accept the scenario of Mayor Espinosa armed with a gun fighting a superior force and of police forces disarming the prison guards and keeping them away from the scene, when the normal procedure is to coordinate and collaborate with fellow peace officers, and Marcos outside supervising the operation is considered not culpable as he was not physically present when Espinosa was killed by the raiding team.
Malacañang has defended President Duterte’s decision asserting that the rule of law was not at all disregarded; citing that the PNP-Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS) has resolved the case of the Espinosa 19 in their favor. PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa stressed that the cases of Marcos and his men underwent due process, both the criminal and administrative charges. “It just showed that our justice system is working. If drug pushers or drug lords can claim due process, why not give due process also to the policemen.”
Yet what is disturbing is that the due process seems to be skewed in favor of the accused from the very beginning. We recall that when the news of the killing broke out, President Duterte’s immediate reaction was to defend the policemen, even suggesting that they will be pardoned if not promoted. This stand was taken even before any investigation was conducted. Subsequently the charge of murder was downgraded to homicide allowing bail to be posted. Marcos and the others were given administrative sanctions by the PNP-IAS of suspension and demotions, described by Senator Lacson as a mere “slap-on-the-wrist.”
That these developments come after President Duterte’s latest boast to personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology that he is the only President who could openly order the killing of “those sons of b****es,” referring to drug suspects should be of serious continuing concern. President Duterte even added that law enforcers should kill those who try to fight back and, “if they do not fight back, make them.” It reminds us too much of the Espinosa murder – the policemen were just following orders and was Mayor Espinosa goaded to fight back or the crime scene made to look like he did?
We can only agree with Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales when she said in an interview with Japan’s NHK World last Thursday night that, “He’s goading people to kill people. That’s the problem.” She further said that President Duterte’s publicists might try to explain or justify his words but they can not deny the impact of his message.
To me and many of our fellow citizens the message seems to be – Do not wait for the courts to find those charged with being drug addicts or pushers or drug lords guilty and be meted sentences; dispose of them. It is a dangerous “directive” for from drugs, it could go to corruption, irresponsible mining, and non-payment of taxes, and even to jaywalking (!). It is time for the public to voice their serious and continuing concern and speak for the victims. Otherwise, when their turn comes, there may not be anyone left to protest on their behalf.