Dela Rosa admits Supt Marcos reassignment 'not so normal'

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said it was "not so normal" for Superintendent Marvin Marcos to return to service right away "as if nothing happened," but insisted nonetheless on Wednesday, July 26, that he would not change a thing.

Marcos, former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 chief, and his men are accused of killing Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr on November 5, 2016, in the guise of a police operation. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Senate all said it was murder.

But the DOJ later on downgraded the case to homicide, allowing Marcos and his men to post bail. Later on, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the cops to be reinstated. The PNP's decision to suspend Marcos and demote the rest was overturned. Marcos is now CIDG 12 chief and his men, assigned to different CIDG offices.

"May kaso, government agencies nagsabi na 'yung mga pulis na ito, gumawa ng masamang bagay… normal po ba na ibalik sa field (There's a case, different government agencies are saying that these cops did something wrong. Is it normal for them to be brought back to the field)?" asked Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV during a Senate probe into Marcos' reinstatement on Wednesday.

"Not so normal," admitted Dela Rosa.

The PNP chief noted "[Duterte] was always intimating to me na kung okay na sila Marcos, sayang 'yung sweldo namin sa kanila… ipatrabaho na natin sila (we're paying their salaries, it's a waste not to make them work)." He added that Duterte, in public speeches, would always reiterate his support for the policemen.

But Dela Rosa insisted Duterte's public pronouncements did not affect the PNP investigation but only the eventual reinstatement.

Still, the PNP chief said he would do the same.

"What signal does this send sa taong bayan at sa members of the PNP? Kasi ang lumalabas kahit gumawa ka ng mali, as long as okay ka sa mga nasa taas, babalik ka rin na parang walang nangyari. That's the signal being sent to the public," said Aquino.

(What signal does this send to the public and the members of the PNP? It appears that even if you commit a crime, as long as you have connections to those in power, you'll be reinstated as if nothing happened. That's the signal being sent to the public.)

Dela Rosa, however, stood his ground, repeating previous statements that Marcos' team went through "due process."

Apparently anticipating that the questioning would lead to the issue of impunity in the PNP, Dela Rosa said: "Hindi po mangyayari sa akin 'yan (That will not happen under my watch), your honor. I will stop impunity." (READ: No state-sanctioned killings? Supt Marcos is 'damning proof')

"'Yung reinstatement – ano ba naman 'yun? Wala na ba kayong ibang makuha? (The reinstatement – what kind of move is that? Is there nobody else?)" said Senator Grace Poe.

"I am trained to follow orders, your honor," replied Dela Rosa, who reiterated that Duterte wanted the cops to be reinstated.

Dela Rosa said he earlier advised Duterte to hold back against reinstating Marcos right away because "mainit pa 'yung issue (it was still a hot issue)." The President, however, kept saying publicly that he supported the policemen. (READ: Duterte on reinstating Supt Marcos: Public has nothing to fear)

Despite the decision to eventually reinstate Marcos and his men, Dela Rosa said he still believes CIDG 8 personnel did something wrong in the operation against Espinosa. The PNP Internal Affairs Service (IAS), a body tasked to probe cases against cops, stood by its findings as well. Lawyer Alfegar Triambulo, IAS chief, said he still thinks it was a case of murder due to the "superior strength" of the policemen.

The case of Marvin Marcos is a curious one.

He was supposed to be sacked as CIDG 8 chief back in October 2016, after Espinosa's son, alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, said Marcos himself was a beneficiary of their drug business. But Dela Rosa's orders were overturned the same day by no less than Duterte, who said he was doing his own investigation.

Weeks later, Marcos approved an operation led by Chief Superintendent Leo Laraga to serve a search warrant against Espinosa and another inmate in jail.

The reinstatement of Marcos – despite Dela Rosa approving the IAS findings against him – is the second time that Duterte's decision on the cop overturned that of Dela Rosa's. (READ: Why Duterte won't leave CIDG 8 cops hanging–