Duterte backs rogue killer cops

And that’s very wrong, and should deeply worry us.

Even the top brass and officers of the Philippine National Police were shocked that President Duterte has come out defending the killer cops of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of Eastern Visayas (CIDG-8), when they acted entirely on their own in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, and in such a clumsy manner that it would be stupid to believe it was not a rubout.

Duterte’s stance means we no longer have a rule of law in this country but the rule of a President and his police who can execute anybody they want, and claim that their target had fought it out and the police didn’t have any choice but to defend themselves.

The CIDG-8 demonstrated how the police can undertake such execution with total impunity and brazenness that we should all be outraged, not only at such trampling of our rule of law, but at such ruthless, merciless murder carried out by supposed agents of the law.

In the wee hours of November 5, nineteen officers and policemen of the CIDG-8 motored from their Tacloban City headquarters to the subprovincial jail at Baybay City, disarmed the jail guards whom they ordered to kneel facing the wall so they wouldn’t witness their dastardly deed, forcibly opened the cells, and shot dead the detained Mayor Rolando Espinosa. (The CIDG-8 had absolutely no business dealing with Espinosa. It was other units, especially the Albuera city police, who had been investigating and eventually arrested Espinosa.)

Three of the four bullet wounds, including one in the head, had upward trajectories, PNP Chief Medio-Legal Officer Benjamin Lara testified in the Senate—meaning that mostly likely, he was shot while he was lying down, his feet nearest the shooters. The CIDG ripped out and took away the hard disc of the CCTV that recorded the horrible deed.

In an extraordinary move, the Supreme Court in full session ordered an investigation into why the judge of Basey, Samar issued a search warrant on Espinosa’s jail — which was obviously under government control, and therefore, didn’t need one.

Only real use
Its only real use was to give the CIDG-8 killers the legal excuse that they were “merely” implementing a search warrant ordered by a Court.

The CIDG-8 officers were so caught lying through their teeth in their testimonies that even allies of President Duterte involved in the investigation—Senators Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon and even Manny Pacquiao—all concluded that the killing was a brazen, “premeditated murder,” as Lacson, who was a former PNP chief, put it. For instance, Chief Inspector Leo Laraga, head of the CIDG team that killed Espinosa, claimed that a media man they brought with them in the raid saw Espinosa with a gun. The media man denied this, saying he was told to stay outside the jail.

The CIDG-8 police think we’re stupid: Two photos right after Espinosa’s execution, one with a edition with Hillary on its gun, one without. (From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.)
The CIDG-8 police think we’re stupid: Two photos right after Espinosa’s execution, one with a gun, one without. (From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.)

I describe the CIDG killers as “rogue” cops, as they acted without getting approval for their murderous raid, without even informing—as strictly required by police protocol – their superiors, especially as it involved a high value target. Both PNP Deputy Director for Operations Benjamin Magalong and CIDG Director Chief Superintendent Roel Obusan testified in the Senate that they were not informed by the CIDG-8 head, Marvin Marcos, of the operation.

Despite all these proofs of their guilt, though, Duterte has defended these rogue killer cops.

After three days of strange silence on the rubout, he said he believed “in the version of the police,” obviously referring to the CIDG-8 killers’ version and not of those of PNP chief Ronald de la Rosa (who claimed he ordered his officials to investigate the matter) or of deputy director Magalong, who said the CIDG-8 violated procedures by not coordinating with their superiors.

Duterte also demonstrated a shocking mentality over the slaying when he said, “I will obey what the police will tell me kasi kasama kami sa gobyerno.” (“I will believe what the police tell me since we are together in government.”)

Isn’t he aware that especially, since he is the nation’s chief executive, he has to go after killers and grafters who are with him in government?

Deserved to be killed
Worse, Duterte practically said Espinosa deserved to be killed: “You have a guy (Espinosa), a government employee using his office and money, cooking shabu and destroying the lives of so many millions of Filipinos. So what is there for me to say about it?” he said.

That’s almost exactly what the highest-ranking official responsible for the killing, CIDG-8 head Marcos said: “All that they see is that the mayor surrendered, pretending to be kind, pleading, telling the truth. But he’s a criminal who has killed so many. He basically terrorized the whole town to win as mayor.”

Duterte’s more recent statements on the rubout are more shocking, though. “I would insist that the version of the police in the killing of Mayor Espinosa is the correct version insofar as I am concerned. And I will not, I will not abandon them,” he said Friday.

Duterte, as has been his irritating penchant, was even melodramatic about his stance: “If they go to prison, so will I.” This is not a declaration that he is willing to sacrifice himself for what he believes in. Rather, it is such a sickening demonstration of hubris.

A lawyer, Duterte knows full well that a President can’t be charged for any crime while he is in office. He has to be removed from office first through an impeachment trial, and only after that can he be asked to face the courts of law.

Why wouldn’t Duterte outrightly say that he’s willing to be impeached for defending rogue killer cops?

While many Filipinos, including myself, support what could be Duterte’s earth-shaking reform program for Philippine society to end the rule of the oligarchs, we cannot simply throw to the dustbin our nation’s rule of law and respect for the value of human life, the bedrock of our very humanity and civilization. We will be like, or be even worse, than the drug lords if we condone the murders of suspected criminals apparently ordered, or at least given the nod by, the President of the Republic.

Even our loathing for an immoral and obnoxious person as Senator Leila de Lima cannot be an excuse for sanctioning the blatant murders of helpless persons, even if they are suspects.

How can Duterte claim that he is merely upholding the rule of law in allowing Marcos’ corpse to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani while publicly defending the murder of a star witness against illegal drug protectors? Isn’t that such an obvious mentality of invoking the rule of law selectively, and only when it suits him?

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