THE National Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday declared the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. at the hands of policemen a “rub out” and not a shootout.
NBI spokesman Ferdinand Lavin told reporters the agency’s probe found “criminal intent” and conspiracy among members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to kill Espinosa and fellow inmate Raul Yap during the raid of the Baybay City sub-provincial jail last November 5.
The findings by the NBI office in Eastern Visayas were based on evidence from the crime scene and testimonies of witnesses who had disputed the claim of an alleged shootout between the CIDG operatives and Espinosa and Yap.
“The pieces of evidence both testimonial and the forensic evidence, they match. We believe we have a strong case,” Lavin said.
Lawyer Gerry Abiera, acting NBI regional director for Eastern Visayas, said: “There was no shootout in the cell of Espinosa.”
The CIDG raiding team, led by Chief Insp. Leo Laraga, claims Espinosa and Yap fired at them when they conducted a search of their cells for illegal firearms and drugs on a warrant obtained from a Samar judge.
The November 5 raid raised questions as it was conducted at dawn. Lawmakers have also pointed out that there was no need to search Espinosa and Yap for illegal possession of firearms and drugs as they were already under government custody.
Inmate Donald Palerma, who was in Cell No. 2 adjacent to Cell No. 1 where Espinosa was detained, said the slain mayor’s cell was lighted when the shooting occurred and that Laraga switched off the lights.
Palerma also testified that he heard Espinosa appeal to the CIDG men not to plant evidence, and that he saw a policeman between Cells No. 2 and 3 signaling a thumb down. Shots followed from Cell Nos. 1 and 7. He also heard a male person say “Lumaban pa [He fought back].”
Palerma said he saw another policeman wearing gloves and holding a firearm enter Espinosa’s cell. When the policeman came out, he was no longer holding a firearm, he claimed.
In his affidavit, Palerma also said Senior Police Officer 4 Juanito Duarte went to Cell No. 7 and ordered the inmates to leave the cell and go to the quarantine area, except for Raul Yap.
Another inmate, Oliver Calibing, testified that he heard the police ask Yap, “Kinsabay nimo [Who are you],” to which the inmate replied, “Raul Yap.” The police asked Yap what his charges were, and Yap said he had drug cases. Police told him to go to the quarantine area together with the other inmates, after which shots were heard from the cell.
Last Friday, the NBI filed multiple murder charges against 24 officers of the CIDG Region 8, including their head Supt. Marvin Wynn Marcos.
Aside from Marcos, charged were Duarte, Laraga, Supt. Santi Noel Matira, Senior Insp. Deogracia Diaz, Senior Insp. Fritz Blanco, and police officers Melvin Caboyit, Eric Constantino, Benjamine Dacallos, Alphinor Serrano Jr., Johnny Ibanez, Norman Abellanosa, Niel Centino, Bernard Orpilla, Lloyd Ortiguesa, Jerlan Cabiyaan, Cristal Gisma and Divine Grace Songlia.
Also, the NBI filed perjury charges against Laraga, Abellanosa and Paul Olendan.
Olendan was the witness who claimed he saw Raul Yap repacking shabu inside Cell No. 2 on October 28 and that he saw Espinosa with a firearm. Also, Olendan claimed he was asked by Yap to come to him and that Espinosa needed somebody to dispose of the shabu.
“When they (CIDG men) applied for a search warrant for illegal drugs and illegal possession of firearms against Mayor Rolando Espinosa and Raul Yap, they lied before the court,” Lavin said.
The NBI was able to establish that Olendan was not inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail on October 28 and that he was in Tacloban City, based on the testimonies of co-workers and the assistant principal of Leyte National High School were he works.
“He was in Tacloban city around 120-130 kilometers from Baybay,” Lavin said.
“The jail guards on duty at that time in the provincial jail testified that [Olendan] didn’t go in. He was not in the logbook. Also, the inmates testified that he was not seen on that date inside the premises of the provincial jail,” the NBI spokesman added.
Moreover, jail guards inspected the Baybay jail cells on October 30, and no firearms or drugs were recovered.
“We believe the search warrant was a cover to legitimize their operation,” Lavin said. SOFIA USERO