This is why drug-related killings are being described as state-sanctioned summary executions. Over the weekend, President Duterte said he not only would pardon the policemen now under arrest for killing Albuera town mayor Rolando Espinosa, but would even promote them.
The President has the power to promote the 19 policemen led by Superintendent Marvin Marcos, the former head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Eastern Visayas. But it is unclear whether the President is prepared to do this while the 19 are under arrest for the murder of Espinosa and inmate Raul Yap in November last year inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay, Leyte.
Promoting them while they are under arrest and in the custody of the CIDG-Region 8, which Marcos used to head, will reinforce suspicions that Marcos received orders to execute Espinosa directly from the President himself. This in turn will reinforce perceptions that the President is encouraging Philippine law enforcers to perpetrate extrajudicial killings in fighting the drug menace.
As for a presidential pardon, considering the glacial pace of the country’s criminal justice system, members of the Philippine National Police undoubtedly realize that if they are ever indicted like Marcos and his men for murder, they will have to spend time in jail. If convicted, they must serve at least several years behind bars, during which the Duterte presidency would have been over. And the next president may not have such a benign view of short cuts to law enforcement.
Perhaps President Duterte is just giving PNP members his brand of pep talk as they raise concerns about legal problems they might encounter in carrying out Oplan Tokhang and its latest incarnation, Double Barrel Reloaded. But the presidential pep talk sends the wrong signals, telling police that it’s fine to short-circuit due process and have no respect for human life. It rewards murder.