DOJ indicts Espenido, 2 others for homicide over 2017 Ozamiz raid

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MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Ozamiz City Police head Chief Inspector  Jovie Espenido and two other police officers over the death of six persons in a police operation in the city in June 2017.

In a 10-page resolution dated July 30, 2018 penned by DOJ Assistant State Prosecutor Loverhette Jeffrey Villordon, but was only released to media on Thursday, the DOJ found probable cause to charge Espenido, SPO4 Renato Martir Jr., and PO1 Sandra Nadayag for six counts of homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code based on the complaint of Carmelita Manzano.

The three policemen are being accused of killing the complainant’s husband Fancracio, her son Jerry, her daughter’s common law spouse, Victorino Mira Jr.; her nephew Lito Manisan; her niece’s common law husband Romeo Libaton; and one Alvin Lapeña in the afternoon raid during a birthday celebration in her house.

The six were killed during a series of raids in Cabinti and Balintawak villages in Ozamis last June 1 where six other suspects were arrested.

Police recovered firearms, pieces of jewelry, and sachets of suspected shabu from the suspects during the raids.

Meanwhile, the DOJ dismissed charges of murder and arbitrary detention against the three policemen for “lack of probable cause”

Espenido and company may post bail for each count of homicide following the filing of the criminal information in court.

The DOJ said the respondents’ claim that the first gunfire came from Manzano’s camp needs to be proven in court as a “justifying circumstance.”

“In this case, respondents Espenido, Martir Jr., and Nadayag do not deny that their police operation resulted [in] the death of herein victims. They admitted killing the said persons. In their defense, though, they claim that they were just doing their jobs as policemen engaged in hot pursuit operation. In other words, they wish to avail of the justifying circumstance of fulfilment of a duty or killing in the lawful exercise of a right or office.”

“Unfortunately for respondents, their admission of killing the herein victims is, on its own, sufficient to establish probable cause for the crime of homicide,” the resolution, approved by Acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon, read.

In junking the arbitrary detention charge, the DOJ explained that an element of the crime — that the detention was without legal grounds — was lacking in the case of Mrs. Manzano, who claimed to have been taken by the policemen following the operation and detained at the Ozamiz City Police Station from June 1 to 7.

The DOJ said Manzano admitted that she was furnished a copy of an affidavit of arrest/complaint/searcher, dated June 9, for alleged violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act. “Clearly, therefore, a case against her was filed; and there was indeed legal ground for [her] detention.

Another respondent, Chief Insp. Glyndo Pujanes, was cleared of charges as the DOJ noted that he had no hand in the killing of the fatalities and only arrived at the scene after the raids took place in barangays Cabinti and Balintawak.

The indictment can still be appealed.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that after a motion for reconsideration is resolved by prosecution panel, Espenido can still file a petition for review before his office.

Espenido led operations against suspected narco-politicians such as Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog.

Last July 2017, the Ozamiz police chief also led the anti-drug operations in the city, which resulted in the death of Parojinog and 14 others.

The slain mayor’s children, Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez and Reynaldo Jr., were arrested during the raid and were later charged with drug possession and illegal possession of firearms. –PNA

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