DOJ chief says President Duterte’s remarks defending police in anti-drug campaign not a ground for impeachment

MANILA — Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said that President Rodrigo Duterte cannot be impeached for publicly announcing that he would not allow the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) team led by Supt. Marvin Marcos who is involved in the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside the Baybay City sub-provincial jail in Leyte to go to jail.

Aguirre believes that the President made the statement only to emphasize his trust and support to the Philippine National Police in its enforcement of his anti-drug campaign.

He added that President did not commit any culpable violation of the Constitution or betrayal of public trust in issuing such statement.

He explained that such pronouncement of the President does not constitute an impeachable offense, contrary to claims of critics like Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV.

“Alam natin ang ating pangulo ay mahilig sa hyperbole. (President Duterte is famous using hyperbole) I see nothing wrong. Masyado lang (nila) pinalalaki ito (They’re just making a big issue from it). The president is merely exercising his right to express his opinion, has the right to express what he is thinking,” Aguirre pointed out, who served as a private prosecutor in the historic impeachment trial of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Aguirre also said that Trillanes, who is not a lawyer, “knows nothing” as he rejected the claim of Trillanes that the President could be held liable for murder after publicly saying that he ordered Espinosa’s killing.

He also assured that there is no demoralization among the ranks of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) after the President publicly rejected their findings on criminal liabilities against the CIDG team led by Marcos.

Aguirre II said on Thursday said that the agency will continue the preliminary investigation on the case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against members of the CIDG-Region 8 in connection with the killing of Espinosa.

”It will not affect (the proceedings of the case). We will continue our preliminary investigation,” Aguirre said when sought for a comment.

Aguirre II has created a five-man panel to conduct preliminary investigation and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant the filing of a case by the NBI against the policemen involved in the killing of Espinosa and fellow inmate Raul Yap inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City last November 5.

In his Department Order no. 890 issued on Dec. 7, Wednesday, Aguirre designated Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lilian Doris P. Alejo as chairperson while her members are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Olivia L. Torrevillas, Assistant State Prosecutor Jinky P. Dedumo, Assistant State Prosecutor Karla T. Cabel and Prosecuting Attorney Moises Y. Acayan.

The panel will conduct a preliminary investigation on the multiple murder and perjury case against 24 members of the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) Regional Office No. 08.

“In the interest of public service, pursuant to the provisions of existing laws and pursuant to the result of the investigation conducted by the NBI Eastern Visayas Regional Office, recommending the prosecution thereof, a panel of prosecutor is hereby constituted to conduct the preliminary investigation of the case,” Aguirre said in the Department Order.

“If evidence warrants, [the panel is ordered] to file the appropriate information in the court of competent jurisdiction and to prosecute the same,” said Aguirre.

Facing a complaint for multiple murder are Superintendent Marvin Wynn Marcos, Superintentdent Santi Noel Gaspang Matira, Chief Inspector Leo Daio Laraga, Senior Inspector (SI) Deogracia Pedong Diaz, SI Fritz Bioco Blanco, Senior Police Officer 4 Juanito Ampado Duarte, SPO4 Melvin Mendoza Caboyit, SPO4 Eric Palattao Constantino, SPO2 Benjamin Layague Dacallos, SPO2 Alphinor Milla Serrano, Jr., PO3 Johnny Abuda Ibanez, PO3 Norman Tiu Abellanosa, PO2 Niel Patrimonio Centino, PO1 Bernard Rodriguez Orpilla, PO3 Lloyd Ortinez Ortiguesa, PO1 Jerlan Sadia Cabiyaan, Cristal Jane Briones Gisma, Divine Grace Baclas Songalia, all assigned at CIDG Regional Office No. 08, Port Area, Tacloban City as well as PCINSP Calixto Cabardo Canillas, Jr., PINSP Lucresito Adana Candelosas, SPO2 Antonio Romangca Docil, SPO1 Mark Christian Castillo Cadilo, PO2 John Ruel Baldevia Doculan, and PO2 Jaime Pacuan Bacsal, all assigned at Regional Maritime Unit 8 Port Area, Tacloban City.

The NBI also recommended the filing of perjury charges against PCINSP Leo Diao Laraga, PO3 Norman T. Abellanosa and Paul Olendan for maliciously obtaining a search warrant.

It will be recalled that citing testimonial and forensic evidence, the NBI said the killing of Espinosa, who has earlier surrendered to the authorities after he and his son, Kerwin Espinosa were named by President Rodrigo Duterte as being involved in the illegal drugs trade, and Yap, were a result of rub-out and not a shootout as claimed by the policemen who conducted the raid.

The police team who conducted the raid insisted that Espinosa shot at them first, prompting them to fire back.

Espinosa was named by President Duterte as being involved in the illegal drugs trade. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/