Records show Leyte jail raid team called SOCO before going in

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Senators are questioning a seemingly deliberate plan behind the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa last weekend.

Read: Albuera Mayor Espinosa, 1 other inmate killed in jail cell shootout – CIDG

At Thursday's Senate hearing on the controversial raid, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon questioned the move of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 8 (CIDG-8) to call in the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) nearly 40 minutes ahead of the raid at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City.

The operation was meant to serve a warrant to search Espinosa's cell on a tip that he had an unlicensed gun and illegal drugs.

"Nakalagay dito 4:30 a.m, the CIDG team was able to enter the premises through the use of bolt cutter" [It says here that at 4:30 a.m., the CIDG team was able to enter the premises through the use of a bolt cutter], said Lacson, chairman of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs.

"Sa affidavit ni PO2 Jennifer Monge, tumawag si Supt. (Santi Noel) Matira requesting for SOCO at 3:49. So para kayong tumatawag ng punerarya, wala pang engkwentro?" he added.

[Translation: According to the affidavit of PO2 Jennifer Monge, Supt. Matira called at 3:49 a.m. requesting a SOCO team. So it's like you're calling the funeral parlor even though there wasn't an encounter yet.]

Matira said he made the call after the raiding team confirmed that Espinosa was dead. He was with the raiding team.

"Tumawag po ako kasi noong nag-report sa akin yung si Major (Leo) Laraga na may putukan dun," Matira said. "Pina-confirm ko sa kanya (kung) may vital sign pa si Mayor," Matira said.

[Translation: I called when Major Leo Laraga reported that there was a gunfight in the jail. I had him confirm if the Mayor still had vital signs.]

Grilled by senators on the early SOCO advisory, Matira said he could not remember what time he made the call.

CIDG-8 Regional Chief Marvin Marcos, who was also with the raiding team, said they weren't conscious of the time during the operation. But he said they coordinated with the Baybay City police at 3:43 a.m.

"After na-confirm namin po na received na po yung coordination doon, tumakbo na po yung raiding team papunta na doon sa provincial jail" [After we confirmed that the coordination (document) was received, the raiding team headed to the provincial jail], Marcos said.

"Kasunod po dito is ginawa ko po estimated time na lang" [I only estimated the time for the events after this], he added.

Pre-meditated

But senators remained skeptical of the policemen's testimonies.

"Sen. Gordon, there's one word to describe this: pre-meditated," said Lacson.

"Lumalabas 'yan, pre-meditated lahat ng sinasabi mo. Kaya tinatanong kita, diretsahan, are you aware na ikaw ngayon ay lalabas na principal by direct cooperation? You're aware of that?" Gordon told Matira.

[Translation: It would appear that everything you're saying is pre-meditated. This is why I'm asking you directly, are you aware that you would be a principal by direct cooperation (in the commission of a crime)?]

Supt. Elmer Beltejar, Police Regional Office 8 director, said calling in the SOCO before an operation was "definitely" not standard procedure.