Ordinarily, crime happened first before the Scene of the Crime Operatives or SOCO were called in. But it appears that before the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 8 (CIDG-8) raiding team that killed Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. got to the Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail in Leyte, they had alerted the SOCO beforehand.
This means that the CIDG-8 team was pre-meditating a crime. Fact is, the CIDG-8 alerted the SOCO 40 minutes before the raid. This was the conclusion that Senator Panfilo Lacson had after he and Senator Richard Gordon questioned the suspects at the Senate hearing on Thursday.
“Nakalagay dito 4:30 a.m, the CIDG team was able to enter the premises through the use of bolt cutter” [It is indicated here that at 4:30 a.m., the CIDG team was able to enter the premises through the use of a bolt cutter], Lacson, chairman of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, pointed out.
“Sa affidavit ni PO2 Jennifer Monge, tumawag si Supt. (Santi Noel) Matira requesting for SOCO at 3:49. So para kayong tumatawag ng punerarya, wala pang engkwentro?” Lason added. (In the affidavit of PO2 Jennifer Monge, Supt. [Santi Noel] Matira called up requesting for SOCO at 3:49. So, it was like calling for funeral service even if there was no encounter yet?).
But Matira said he called up SOCO after the raiding team confirmed Espinosa’s death. Matira was with the raiding team.
“Tumawag po ako kasi noong nag-report sa akin yung si Major (Leo) Laraga na may putukan dun,” Matira said. “Pina-confirm ko sa kanya (kung) may vital sign pa si Mayor,” Matira said. (I called up after Major [Leo] Laraga reported to me that gun shots were fired there [at the jail]. I had him confirm if the mayor still had vital signs).
But cross-examined by the senators about the time when the SOCO advisory was made, Matira claimed he could not remember the time he made the call.
Marvin Marcos, regional chief of the CIDG-8, tried to backup Matira’s claim. He said they were not conscious about the time when they did the operation. Bu he assured the senators they had coordinated with the Baybay City police at 3:43 am. Marcos was with the raiding team.
“After na-confirm namin po na received na po yung coordination doon, tumakbo na po yung raiding team papunta na doon sa provincial jail” (After confirming that the coordination (document) was received by them [Baybay police], the raiding team proceeded to the provincial jail], Marcos recounted.
“Kasunod po dito is ginawa ko po estimated time na lang” [After all this, what I did was just to estimate the time), Marcos added.
Senator Lacson was sure everything was pre-meditated. “Sen. Gordon, there’s one word to describe this: pre-meditated,” he said.
Consequently, Senator Gordon saw Matira’s role in all what happened and asked him: “Lumalabas ‘yan, pre-meditated lahat ng sinasabi mo. Kaya tinatanong kita, diretsahan, are you aware na ikaw ngayon ay lalabas na principal by direct cooperation? You’re aware of that?” Gordon told Matira.
(It appears that everything you said was pre-meditated. Hence I’m asking you directly, are you aware that you now appear to be principal by direct cooperation [in the commission of a crime]?)
Meanwhile, Supt. Elmer Beltejar, Police Regional Office 8 director, said making that call to the SOCO before doing the said operation was “definitely” not the standard procedure.
The CIDG-8 operation was meant to simply serve a search warrant to Mayor Espinosa who was staying in a cell inside the sub-provincial jail. A tip was received by CIDG-8 that illegal drugs and an unlicensed gun were in the possession of the mayor. But the mayor allegedly opened fire, getting killed by the return fire of the raiding cops.
However, in a radio program on Sunday, Lacson said he was now even more convinced the whole thing was pre-meditated.
“I think that the application for a search warrant was to give a semblance of legality for the police operation … You can see that (the CIDG-8 team) only had one purpose there, and that is to kill Mayor Espinosa. The puzzle left to us is why,” said the senator, a former PNP chief during the Joseph Estrada’s presidency.