By Hannah L. Torregoza
Senators yesterday called Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II’s decision to downgrade the charges against the suspects in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa as “anomalous and suspicious.”
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon slammed Aguirre’s move and said that the abrupt move of the justice secretary was a “big blow to the justice system in the country.”
“The abrupt downgrading of the case against Supt. Marvin Marcos and his alleged accomplices from murder to homicide is a big blow to the justice system in the country,” said Drilon, a former DOJ chief.
“This is a very disappointing development insofar as the ability of the government to prevent and prosecute police abuses and irregularities is concerned,” the minority leader stressed.
Drilon also said it was also an insult to the Senate which conducted a thorough investigation of the case, and eventually recommended the filing of murder charges against Marcos and his alleged cohorts.
During the Senate investigation, Drilon noted that Aguirre acknowledged the mayor’s killing could qualify as premeditated, which classifies as murder.
“Secretary Aguirre told us under oath here in the Senate that he himself considers the killing as premeditated. He even pointed out that the conduct of Espinosa’s arrest was not consistent with the PNP’s procedures,” he said.
He said Aguirre even labeled the operation as an “overkill” considering that 19 policemen served the search warrant for a single weapon at a provincial jail when only three or four persons could have done the job.
“It begs now the question: Why did the DOJ suddenly reverse its earlier decision,which was supported by ample evidence? Why not allow the court to determine if it’s murder or homicide?” Drilon asked.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, one of the committees that participated in the probe, also questioned the DOJ’s move, saying the secretary could be liable for abuse of discretion.
“In the first place, I’m surprised why did the DOJ downgrade it? It should have been the courts that downgraded the case,” Gordon said.
Gordon said somebody should file a petition for review, pointing out that the case should be considered non-bailable because the charge was murder.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called Aguirre “flip-flop king” for downgrading the charges of murder to mere homicide.
“From being the fake news king of Padre Faura, Secretary Aguirre is also now immortalized as the DOJ’s flip-flop king, a would-be absolver of murderers,” she stressed.
Hontiveros said that she will ask the Senate to invite Aguirre to explain his department’s decision to downgrade the charges of the accused.
“This may be the last straw for many of us. We cannot allow Secretary Aguirre to continue to toy around with our justice system. Enough’s enough,” Hontiveros said.
The Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, chaired by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, recommended last March the filing of murder charges against the policemen led by Marcos.
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