Policemen in Espinosa-Yap slay plead not guilty

Tacloban City (CNN Philippines, June 21) — The 19 policemen accused in the killing of former Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa and inmate Raul Yap have pled not guilty to the crime.

The plea was made on Wednesday at Regional Trial Court Branch 14 in Baybay City.

The accused, led by former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 8 Chief Superintendent Marvin Marcos, face murder charges for the death of Espinosa and Yap while they were detained at the Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail.

A resolution dated June 2 signed by Department of Justice Undersecretary Reynante Orceo downgraded the charges to homicide.

READ: Espinosa slay case: DOJ downgrades murder case to homicide

Aside from Marcos, the other suspects facing two counts of homicide for the deaths of Espinosa and Yap are:

  • Sr. Insp. Deogracia Pedong Diaz III
  • Chief Insp. Calixto Canillas Jr.
  • Insp. Lucresito CandelosasSPO 2 Benjamin Dacallos
  • SPO 2 Antonio Docil
  • SPO 1 Mark Christian Cadilo
  • PO3 Norman Abellanosa
  • PO2 John Ruel Doculan
  • PO2 Jaime Bacsal
  • PO1 Jerlan Cabiyaan

Four other police officers were charged with homicide over Espinosa's death: Supt. Santi Noel Matira, Chief Insp. Leo Daio Laraga, SPO4 Melvin Caboyit, and PO3 Johnny Abuda Ibanez.

While four more were charged for the death of Yap: Sr. Insp. Fritz Bioco Blanco, SPO4 Juanito Duarte, PO2 Lloyd Ortiguesa, and PO1 Bernard Orpilla.

The arraignment of the homicide cases lasted for about 15 minutes. Each of the suspects were asked by the court for their plea, and each replied "not guilty."

The prosecution team from the Leyte Provincial Prosecutors Office were present at the arraignment, however private prosecutor Leilani Trinidad Villarino did not attend.

The lawyers of Supt. Santi Noel Matira and Chief Insp. Leo Daio Laraga said in their client's defense that the deaths of Espinosa and Yap were "on the performance of official function."

The lawyers of the rest of the accused denied the commission of the crime.

READ: Suspect cops in Espinosa slay case out on bail; senators decry DOJ ruling

Regional Trial Court Branch 14 Judge Carlos Arguelles set the schedule for the pre-trial on August 3 and September 13.

The 19 accused refused to answer questions from the media and immediately left the court premises after the arraignment.

Arguelles clarified that the downgraded homicide case against the policemen could still be elevated to murder again, if the private prosecution can present evidence that the charge should be higher than homicide.

Arguelles added they also filed for a change of venue for the trial of the Espinosa and Yap slay cases before the Supreme Court, for the safety of the complainant, the accused, and the staff of RTC Branch 14.

While the Supreme Court has yet to act on his petition, the trial of the case will continue in Baybay RTC, Arguelles said.