Why was Albuera mayor Espinosa allowed to go back to work?

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Rolando Espinosa
Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was re-elected as head of the municipality of Albuera, Leyte in the 2016 elections. (image credit: Rolando Onick Espinosa/Facebook)

LEYTE, Philippines: Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was welcomed by his supporters when he reported for work on Tuesday this week even after being tagged a drug coddler on Duterte’s narco list.

The news went viral overnight and the public demanded an answer to the question: how was it possible for mayor Espinosa to go home after his ‘surrender’?

Due process

It can be remembered that Espinosa surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) while his son, Ronald “Kerwin” Espinosa fled and went into hiding.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) claims that both father and son were involved in illegal drug trade as well as illegal possession of firearms.

This was followed by a raid conducted on the mayor’s house where authorities found P88-million worth of shabu and other prohibited devices.

However, legal experts say that since Mayor Espinosa was not present during the said raid, the police cannot directly tag the mayor responsible.

They added that because of his absence during the operations, the mayor can provide an alibi which raises doubts about his guilt. Under the law, until proven guilty, Espinosa should be considered innocent.

Section 14, Article III of the 1987 Constitution

(1) No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law. (2) In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused provided that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is unjustifiable.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) already filed criminal complaints against the two at the Albuera Prosecutor’s Office in Leyte.

Since the cases are still under investigation, the warrants of arrest have yet to be issued.

Earlier this month, Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno advised judges linked by Duterte to the illegal drug trade not to ‘surrender’, unless arrest warrants are issued against them.

“I would caution them against surrendering or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly issued warrant of arrest,” CJ Sereno stressed.

Such advice is also applicable to the people on Duterte’s list including the mayor.

Additionally, Mayor Espinosa tested negative for drug use.

Following a due process as promised by the president, authorities do not have a legal reason to hold and prevent him from going home.

Disclaimer: This article is under Reporter.ph’s Opinion section and is based solely on the information that we have personally gathered. Our views may be rendered incorrect or incomplete when other facts are discovered, changed or elaborated.