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Duterte did not pardon cops in Espinosa slay -- Palace

MANILA, December 8 -- Malacanang clarified on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte did not absolve the policemen involved in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside his prison cell at the Leyte’s sub-provincial jail last November 5.

"We want to make it clear that the President did not pardon police officials who maybe involved in the killing of Espinosa as alleged by one senator. That is entirely not true," Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Assistant Secretary Anna Marie Banaag said in a press briefing.

Banaag explained that the support given by President Duterte to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 operatives “may come in the form of legal assistance.”

"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. As he said, he is willing to take his life, his honor and even the presidency," she added.

In fact, Banaag said President Duterte did not intervene in the investigation of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which found that Espinosa was killed in a rubout and not in a shootout as claimed by the CIDG-8 officials.

She said the President has even told the NBI to go ahead with its plan to file criminal charges against the policemen involved in killing of Espinosa, whose son Kerwin Espinosa is a drug lord Visayas.

"Now the case is up to the court already. The burden of proof is different. If the court will say that they (police) did a misdeed, then so be it. The President respects that,” Banaag said.

She explained that when the President said it was his order, “it was not an order to kill Espinosa” but referring to his earlier order to the PNP to fight illegal drugs, which according to the President, has contaminated almost 4 million Filipinos.

"As to the ‘that’s my order,’ let put it this way: What the President said is I take responsibility because I ordered that all of you (police) have to work to fight illegal drugs. So he was not referring specifically to Mayor Espinosa," Banaag explained.

Banaag, meanwhile, denied Senator Antonio Trillanes’ allegation that President Duterte was the mastermind of Espinosa slay.

"That’s not fair. That’s not true. That his (Trillanes) opinion. It could be speculations of Sen. Trillanes because we cannot control him in his opinion. The President does not have anything to do with Espinosa slay," Banaag said.

PCO Secretary Martin Andanar said the President’s pronouncements that he is standing by his men “are critical to maintaining” the police’s high morale with the end view of succeeding in the war on drugs.

"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 explained in a press statement.

Andanar has even encouraged the NBI to file cases against “those who they deemed to have violated laws, and that he would not intervene in these proceedings.”

Banaag said the Palace will respect Senator Leila De Lima’s claim that the President could be impeached for protecting cops in Espinosa killing.

"Again that is Senator’s De Lima’s opinion. But it is not an impeachable offense," Banaag, a lawyer, said.

Andanar said President Duterte “respects and upholds the constitutional rights of our people to voice out grievances and even dissent against the policies and decisions of the administration.”

Andanar, however, said the President will not condone any unlawful move to wrest power from all duly elected officials of the government, including himself.

"Any such ploy beyond the bounds of the law shall not be tolerated," he added.


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