BRAZEN: Another Philippine politician is raising questions about the death of Albuera town mayor Roland Espinosa inside Baybay Provincial Jail before dawn Saturday. In a press statement, Senator Risa Hontiveros said the killing of Mayor Espinosa inside his cell "is awfully unsettling."
"That Espinosa was brazenly shot dead behind bars is the height of impunity," she added. Hontiveros urged the Duterte administration to form an independent inter-agency task force to conduct a swift and thorough investigation of the shooting. She said the government must investigate if there was foul play behind the mayor's death.
"Why was a warrant served at 4:00 am to someone who is already behind bars and without proper coordination with jail guards?
Why was the hard drive of the jail's CCTV cameras removed?
Was there poor jail management?" she asked.
Espinosa, mayor of Albuera town in central Leyte province, was shot dead by police after he and fellow slain inmate Raul Yap allegedly fired shots at operatives of the PNP's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 who were serving a search warrant at the Baybay Provincial Jail.
Philippine lawmakers have expressed alarm over the killing of Espinosa inside his detention cell, with the chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, Senator Richard Gordon, describing it as a "slap in the face" of the country's criminal justice system.
Gordon said he may file a resolution to look into such drug-related killings, while Senator Panfilo Lacson was quoted by local media as saying that Espinosa's death was "a clear case of EJK (extrajudicial killing)."
Philippine National Police Chief Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa earlier ordered an investigation into Espinosa's death, promising that there would be no cover-up in the process.
He said one of the angles that he is looking into is the alleged blue book that Espinosa's son, Kerwin, is holding. The book allegedly contains names of police officials involved in the protection of the illegal drug trade.
Hontiveros said that while she continues to believe that majority of the police force is honest and trustworthy, "the PNP, as an institution, cannot possibly earn the public's trust and ease their fears if incidents like this happen in its very backyard."
"It also cannot realize security sector reforms under such a climate. The Duterte government cannot convince the public that the country is safer now if the police force's image is continuously tarnished by cases of human rights violations and other abuses," she said.
The senator said she supports the call to resume the Senate's investigation on extrajudicial killings triggered by Espinosa's death. She urged the public to exercise extreme vigilance and not swallow hook, line and sinker reports that all drug-related deaths came as a results of crime suspects fighting back against the police.
"I understand the collective anger against alleged drug lords. Drug lords and their henchmen have made millions by destroying lives and families. They have forced us to live in fear. They have made it so bad; people welcome the very questionable circumstances of their deaths," she said.
"And this is where we must draw the line. We must strive to be better than the very monsters we fight. Even in our anger we must strive to be sober and just. This is the only way for us to get to the very core of this dense, treacherous social ill and end it." With Reuters