By Vann Marlo M. Villegas
THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has found probable cause to charge Ozamiz City Police Chief Inspector (PCI) Jovie R. Espenido and other police officers with six counts of homicide in connection with a police operation in June last year.
In a 10-page resolution signed by Assistant State Prosecutor Loverhette Jeffrey P. Villordon, the DoJ recommended that Mr. Espenido, SPO4 Renato J. Martir, Jr. and PO1 Sandra L. Nadayag be charged with six counts of homicide under Article 249 of the Revised Penal Code.
The complaint was filed by Carmelita U. Manzano, in connection with the deaths of her husband Fancracio Manzano, son Jerry Manzano, and four other relatives and in-laws.
According to her, they were celebrating the birthday of a brother-in-law at their house at around 2:00 p.m. of June 1, when three policemen alighted from a vehicle outside and started shooting.
Ms. Manzano and her three grandchildren were rushed to the house of a neighbor, Laureto Ugmad, who lived with his six children, and they were told to “get down on the ground and face away from the street.” She said she “heard continuous shots coming from outside.”
Ms. Manzano herself was detained by Ozamiz Police Station that day and was only allowed to leave a week later, after signing an Affidavit of Arrest/Complaint/Search for violation of Republic Act No 10591 or Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.
In its resolution, the DoJ noted the stand of the accused that the killings were in the course of their duty.
“In other words, they wish to avail of justifying circumstance of fulfillment 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 read in part.
The DoJ also took note of Mr. Espenido’s claim that the targets were robbery and homicide suspects.
It also stated that the Supreme Court previously held that if the accused admitted of the death of a victim “and his defense is anchored on a justifying circumstance, it is incumbent upon him to prove such justifying circumstance to the satisfaction of the court.”
On the other hand, the DoJ dismissed the charges of arbitrary detention and murder also filed by Ms. Manzano for “lack of probable cause.”
The DoJ also dismissed the complaint against respondent PCI Glyndo L. Pujanes, saying that “he was not part of the operation, and only arrived at the scene after the incident had already occurred.”
Mr. Espenido led the drug raid which killed Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 14 others on July 30, 2017.