Philip­pines’ po­lice murdered mayor

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Philip­pine po­lice murdered a town mayor while he was help­less in a jail cell, jus­tice depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors said yes­ter­day, con­tra­dict­ing claims by the ac­cused and Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte that he was killed in a gun battle. The ac­cu­sa­tions by the Na­tional Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion deep­ened con­cerns that po­lice were car­ry­ing out sum­mary ex­e­cu­tions as part of Duterte’s con­tro­ver­sial war on crime, which has claimed more than 5,100 lives in just over five months.

The NBI, equiv­a­lent to the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion in the United States, said po­lice shot dead mayor Rolando Espinosa and his cell­mate Raul Yap, as they were de­fense­less in a pro­vin­cial jail cell last month. “Af­ter con­duct­ing an ex­haus­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the in­ci­dents sur­round­ing the killing of Mayor Espinosa and Yap, the NBI con­cluded that the tes­ti­monies of sev­eral wit­nesses had dis­puted the claim of an al­leged shootout between the (po­lice) op­er­a­tives and in­mates Mayor Espinosa and Raul Yap but (was) a ‘rub out’,” the NBI said in a state­ment.

“Rub out” is a lo­cal ex­pres­sion, re­fer­ring to the po­lice killing a sus­pect and then say­ing he died in a gun battle. “The pieces of ev­i­dence, both tes­ti­mo­nial and the foren­sic ev­i­dence all agree. We be­lieve we have a very strong case,” NBI deputy di­rec­tor Fer­di­nand Lavin told re­porters. Lavin said the NBI was rec­om­mend­ing mur­der and per­jury charges against 24 of­fi­cers for their al­leged role in the killing and sub­se­quent lies.

The ac­cused po­lice had claimed they fired in self de­fense at the pair when they went into the jail cell be­fore dawn to ex­e­cute a search war­rant. The po­lice al­leged Espinosa, who was in jail af­ter be­ing ar­rested in Oc­to­ber on drug and gun pos­ses­sion charges, had a firearm and metham­phetamines in the cell. Law­mak­ers, me­dia groups and hu­man rights ad­vo­cates had ridiculed that ver­sion of events, ask­ing why po­lice had to ex­e­cute a search war­rant in a jail cell at night and why CCTV footage of the event had dis­ap­peared.

How­ever Duterte, who has pledged never to let a po­lice­man go to jail for prose­cut­ing his war on crime, re­peat­edly de­fended the of­fi­cers in­volved. Duterte’s po­lice chief stood down the po­lice of­fi­cer in charge pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but the pres­i­dent im­me­di­ately re­in­stalled him.

Duterte had ac­cused Espinosa, mayor of Al­buera town in the east­ern prov­ince of Leyte, of be­ing a drug lord. In a speech late Mon­day, the pres­i­dent again de­fended the po­lice in the Espinosa case. Duterte, 71, won May elec­tions in a land­slide on a prom­ise to kill tens of thou­sands of crim­i­nals to pre­vent the Philip­pines from be­com­ing a narco-state.— AFP

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