SENATORS are convinced the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa was “premeditated” because of the inconsistencies in the testimonies of the police officers involved in the predawn raid at the Leyte subprovincial jail on November 5.
“There’s one word to describe this: premeditated,” said Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, in an inquiry on Thursday.
Senators learned that the raiding team of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Eastern Visayas asked for scene of the crime operatives (SOCO) even before they arrived at the jail to serve a search warrant against Espinosa and another detainee, Raul Yap, who was also killed in the raid.
Lacson cited discrepancies between the sequence of events presented by regional CIDG chief Supt. Marvin Marcos and the entries on the logbook of the Regional Tactical Operations Center that received the request for a SOCO team.
Marcos told the committee the raiding team arrived at the front gate of the jail at 4:10 a.m.
But the team managed to enter the premises only at around 4:30 a.m. using a bolt cutter to open the main gate, because jail guards refused to let them in, he said.
Marcos said the SOCO arrived at the provincial jail at 5:58 a.m.
Based on the affidavit of Police Officer 2 Jennifer Monge of the Regional Tactical Operations Center, however, she got a call from Supt. Santi Noel Matira, a member of the raiding team, requesting for a SOCO team at 3:49 a.m.
Lacson asked Matira if he was the one who called for a SOCO team, and the latter responded on the affirmative.
“Were you anticipating that you were going to kill someone?” Lacson asked.
Marcos replied that the times indicated in his presentation were merely estimates.
“Mali po `yung entry, estimated time lang po `yun [The entry was incorrect, that was only an estimate],” Matira told the committee.
Forced to faced the wall
Philippine National Police (PNP) Director for Operations Benjamin Magalong said the CIDG operatives also violated procedure after they failed to coordinate their operation with their superiors and other units concerned.
Magalong made the statement in response to the query of Senate Minority Floor Leader Ralph Recto.
Marcos and the head of the raiding team, Chief Insp. Leo Laraga, admitted that they did not make any effort to coordinate with other units and even their superiors because they did not want their plan to “leak.”
“They violated the rule. They should have coordinated and informed their commanders and other concerned units with a stake in the operation, especially the jail warden,” Magalong said.
Magalong also said the CIDG team failed to follow proper procedure in dealing with supposed “uncooperative” jail guards who were disarmed and ordered to face the wall.
Such procedure is only done when dealing with criminals and not “friendlies” like the jail guards, he said.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd was also convinced the killing of Espinosa was planned and there was a need to find out who was responsible for it.
“All the signs point to that (premeditated killing). But one thing I want to find out is who is behind the killing,” Sotto said.
Senator Grace Poe said the testimonies of the CIDG men indicated that they had other plans aside from serving the warrant.
“It seems they had planned for this encounter way in advance to go through the trouble of applying for a warrant when in fact the mayor was already locked up in a government facility,” Poe added.
The same point was stressed by Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao.
Lacson admitted that the death of Espinosa diminished the value of his sworn statement revealing the names of government officials allegedly protecting the illegal drug trade.
He called for the immediate repatriation from the United Arab Emirates of Kerwin Espinosa, son of the slain mayor, who also has the names of those who had benefited from illegal drug operations.
“I’m telling you, there are people who are currently in touch with him as he awaits his repatriation back to the Philippines,” Lacson said.
These individuals, he said, included recipients of campaign contributions in the recent national and local elections.
Richard Gomez linked
Actor-turned-mayor of Ormoc City Richard Gomez was named by the CIDG’s Laraga as among those allegedly involved in the illegal drug operation of the Espinosas in Leyte province.
Laraga told lawmakers the supposed involvement of some local officials and police in Leyte in illegal drugs was the reason they chose to secure the search warrant on Espinosa and Yap in Samar province.
Pressed by Sotto, Laraga identified them as the mayor of Baybay City, the governor of Leyte, the mayor of Ormoc City and the congressman of the third district of Leyte.
Laraga said it was Albuera police chief Jovie Espenido who mentioned the names of the personalities during a case conference. The information, he added, came from the late Mayor Espinosa himself.
Aside from Gomez, Laraga also mentioned the names of Baybay Vice Mayor Mike Cari, Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso, a former appellate court justice and Leyte Governor Leopoldo Petilla.
Gomez’s wife, Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, told an entertainment news website the allegations were “offensive, baseless, and untrue.”
Also allegedly involved in the drug trade was Sen. Leila de Lima, said Espenido, who claimed de Lima had received P8 million from Kerwin Espinosa.
Espenido told the committee he got the information from the late mayor.
The money was allegedly given to the senator, a former Justice secretary, in a restaurant owned by singer Claire de la Fuente.
De Lima, who was present when Espenido was giving his testimony, allowed the police officer to proceed.
The senator said she didn’t mind that her name was mentioned, as she was aware that her name was included in the tell-all affidavit of the late mayor as earlier claimed by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd.
Espenido admitted the information on de Lima was hearsay.