ROLANDO Espinosa became the second town mayor killed amid the government’s bloody anti-drug campaign, shot dead in his jail cell early Saturday — police claimed — after firing at operatives serving a search warrant.
The Interior and Local Government department immediately called for an investigation into the brazen killing, which the Palace described as “unfortunate.”
The Philippine National Police (PNP) said Espinosa, mayor of Albuera, Leyte, and another inmate, identified as Raul Yap, were killed in a shootout with police around 4 a.m. Saturday inside the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Barangay Hispungo, Baybay City, Leyte.
PNP spokesman Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos said a team of operatives from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) led by Chief Insp. Leo Laraga were out to implement search warrants for illegal drugs and firearms against the two inmates.
The warrants were issued by Judge Tarcelo Sabarre Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 in Basey, Samar.
“He (Espinosa) fired on the raiding team. The raiding team fired back and this led to the mayor’s death,” Laraga told AFP.
Yap, also accused of drug trafficking, was likewise killed after he too fired at the officers, Laraga said.
Carlos said in a statement: “Both Espinosa and Yap succumbed to gunshot wounds as a result of the encounter.”
The Interior department, citing initial reports, said police recovered one caliber Super .38 and a magazine with live ammunition from Espinosa’s cell, and one caliber .45 and a magazine with live ammunition from Yap’s cell.
Police were also said to have found one sachet of “suspected shabu” and drug paraphernalia in the cells of Espinosa and Yap.
Radio station DZMM reported, quoting the Leyte provincial administrator, that closed-circuit television footage of the jail was missing.
Internal probe ordered
As a matter of procedure, the incident will be investigated, he said.
“This incident will undergo investigation to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the said incident,” Carlos said.
The PNP spokesman said the Eastern Visayas Police Office under Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar had formed a panel that will look into the incident.
The Regional Internal Affairs Service of the PNP in Eastern Visayas will also conduct its own investigation.
Carlos pointed out that the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail is administered and managed by the provincial government of Leyte.
Tagged by Duterte
Albuera’s death followed that of Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao, who was killed along with his bodyguards at a checkpoint in North Cotabato on October 28.
In August, President Rodrigo Duterte accused Espinosa and his son Kerwin of drug trafficking and demanded they turn themselves in, giving police a “shoot on sight” order if the two resisted arrest.
Mayor Espinosa then surrendered to the national police chief, saying he feared for his life, and was arrested on October 5 over charges of possessing illegal drugs and weapons.
PNP Chief Ronald de la Rosa previously said Espinosa had been listed in official records as a “drug protector,” whose son Kerwin controlled the narcotics trade in the Albuera region.
Kerwin was arrested in the United Arab Emirates last month and is set to return to the Philippines to face drug trafficking charges.
In August, six of the Espinosas’ supporters died in a gunfight with police outside the mayor’s property in Albuera where officers said they recovered guns and several grenades.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said he would wait for the results of the probe before issuing commentary.
“Right now it’s really under investigation so wala po tayong actual na komentaryo patungkol diyan [so we cannot give an actual comment on that],” Abella told government-run dzRB radio.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Espinosa’s death was “unfortunate.”
“Investigation is now ongoing but initial reports indicate that the former mayor was killed while being served a search warrant,” Andanar said in a text message to reporters.
Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno said that while Espinosa and Yap were high-profile inmates linked to the illegal drug trade, it was necessary for the police to adhere to their operations manual and respect the rights of the suspects, “unless their lives are endangered.”
“It is unfortunate that this operation led to this (death of the inmates), but of course, we also do not want our people (policemen) to be the one lying dead in the course of doing their job,” he said in a statement.
WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE