MALACAÑANG slammed Sen. Leila De Lima even as it junked yesterday claims that President Duterte orchestrated the murders of drug suspects in the country after he publicly declared his support for the policemen who shot dead detained Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
In her press briefing yesterday, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag categorically denied that the President had ordered the killing of Espinosa, the father of confessed drug lord Roland “Kerwin” Espinosa.
“That’s not fair. That’s not true,” Banaag replied when asked about allegations linking the President to Espinosa’s death.
Citing the President’s remarks that “because it was my order,” Banaag explained that the Chief Executive was merely referring to his directive to intensify the government’s fight against illegal drugs.
“What he said was he ordered the war on illegal drugs. He did not say, ‘It’s my order to kill (Espinosa).’ What the President said was he was the one who declared the war against drugs,” she explained.
It will be recalled that De Lima described Duterte as a “murderer” and “father of all EJKs” (extrajudicial killings).
In a statement, De Lima said Duterte’s recent remarks on the incident are an admission that he ordered the murder of Mayor Espinosa.
That is an admission that he is the mastermind of such extra-judicial killing. That says it all about the EJK phenomenon,” De Lima, former Justice secretary, said.
Banaag also took exception to allegations that Mr. Duterte’s defense of Espinosa’s killers was tantamount to influencing the outcome of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) probe into Espinosa’s killing, which the NBI had already concluded as a “rubout.”
“The support that the President stated (for) the police officers may come in the form of legal assistance,” she said.
“The Chief Executive has been very consistent in saying that he takes full responsibility in the anti-drug war, including the acts of his men in line with the performance of their duties.”
Also yesterday, Malacanang said that President Duterte cannot be impeached by simply declaring that he will not allow police officials involved in the killing of Espinosa to go to jail.
“Of course not. Why should it be an impeachable offense? Is it even an offense?” chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte’s statement was only aimed at boosting the morale of policemen at the helm of war on narcotics.
“The recent pronouncements of the President pertaining to the PNP, standing by his men, are critical to maintaining their high morale, with the end in view of succeeding in the anti-drug campaign,” insisted Andanar.
The President, he added, adheres to the presumption of regularity in the fatal raid but will not intervene in the investigation or any legal proceedings to absolve the accused officers.
“It should not be misinterpreted to mean that the President will intervene in investigations or any legal proceedings in order to exculpate erring cops,” Andanar said.
“On the contrary, what should be underscored is the very clear statement of the President that while he continues to adhere to the presumption of regularity in the PNP’s performance of its duties, he states in no uncertain terms that he will not interfere with any legal proceeding which will be brought against some members of the police force who are suspected of wrongdoing.”
Andanar said the NBI should file cases against those they deemed to have violated laws, as per Duterte’s order.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, meanwhile, said the President has always given investigators a free hand in tackling the raid led by Region 8’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group against Espinosa.
“Sinabi niyang I believe in the version of the police, let’s review the tape, malinaw na malinaw na sinabi ng Presidente, but if you have evidence against these policemen, then charge them. That’s what precisely has been done by the NBI,” he said.
“We are given a free hand in the Department of Justice to do what is necessary.”
Aguirre noted that the DoJ has formed a five-man panel of prosecutors to consolidate the investigation of cases recommended by the NBI and is further directed to fast-track the issuance of subpoenas to all respondents.
Aguirre designated Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Lilian Doris P. Alejo as chairperson of the panel 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.