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Witnesses vs cops in danger?

  • Written by Bernadette E. Tamayo
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 305

SENATORS Chiz Escudero, Ping Lacson and Leila de Lima are worried over reports that the witnesses against some Leyte police officers who allegedly receive “payola” from self-confessed drug dealer Kerwin Espinosa are “in danger.”

It was reported that a certain Ferdinand Rondina, 38, a resident of Ormoc City and a witness against some policemen and civilians who allegedly received drug payouts from the Espinosa Drug Group was shot dead in Ormoc City last January 7.
    
Two other unidentified witnesses against these concerned policemen were reportedly arrested over an old murder case and were brought to the Baybay, Leyte subprovincial jail where Espinosa’s father, the late Albuera, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed last Nov. 5 by a team of policemen from the Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG).
    
CIDG Region 8 chief Supt. Marvin Marcos claimed that his men shot dead the mayor along with a fellow inmate Raul Yap after they allegedly fired at them while being served with a search warrant for firearms and illegal drugs.
    
Lacson said it is incumbent upon the Philippine National Police leadership “to provide at least ample protection cover to witnesses whose testimonies are vital to the successful prosecution of cases against high profile and powerful drug suspects.”
    
“Otherwise, all the gains so far realized by the government would be rendered useless, not to mention the lack of trust by witnesses in the law enforcement authorities,” he said.
    
“If this situation remains uncorrected, it is the government itself that will feel the brunt of not successfully prosecuting illegal drugs cases,” said Lacson.
   
Escudero said PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa mu st explain the status of Marcos, who had been earlier relieved from his post and recalled to PNP headquarters in Camp Crame pending investigation into his alleged involvement in the killing of the elder Espinosa. But Marcos was later allowed to return to Leyte supposedly to gather evidence to prove his innocence.
    
“He should be restricted to quarters again after being given time to obtain evidence in their behalf since last year. It’s been too long. What are their leads and what have they done leading to the resolution of yet another extrajudicial killing in Ormoc,” said Escudero.
    
De Lima lamented that the country is already “in a state, not of lawlessness, but of a government and an administration that is not bound by laws and is, therefore, not accountable to anyone or liable for anything.”
    
“In this context, there is no sense in raising the issue of whether the police are liable for the killing of witnesses. What we have now is a ‘death squad government’ that is not accountable to anyone or liable for anything. They can kill anyone with impunity, least of all criminal suspects or criminals turned witnesses,” she said.
    
“This should all be taken within the context of an administration that has become immune from criminal liability by the very fact that its leader, the President, has admitted to killing suspects himself and has encouraged everyone else to do the same, without being held to account for either his words or actions,” she added.
    
Rondina was reportedly watching television at his elder sister’s barbeque stall about 7:30 p.m. on Friday when two unidentified men wearing bonnets fired at him.
 
When he fell to the ground, the suspects again shot him in the face. He was rushed to the hospital but was later pronounced dead.
    
Rondina was reportedly among Kerwin’s trusted men in his drug trafficking operations. However, he reportedly voluntarily surrendered last July under “Oplan Tokhang” and eventually stopped his illegal drugs operations.