THE Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Saturday urged the Philippine National Police (PNP) to secure the family of slain Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa.
VACC chairman Dante Jimenez’s request came after the PNP provided security for Lailani Villarino, lawyer of the Espinosas, for fear that she would be next following the killing of the elder Espinosa during a raid last November 5 inside his detention cell in Baybay City, Leyte.
“We thank the PNP for providing security to lawyer Lailani Villarino. In the same manner we would like to request the PNP to provide protection to the members of the Espinosa family, including Kerwin Espinosa who is due to arrive from Abu Dhabi to attend the wake and interment of the late mayor,” Jimenez said in a statement.
Father and son were linked to the illegal drug trade by President Rodrigo Duterte in August. Mayor Espinosa turned himself in to the PNP, while son Kerwin fled and was later arrested in the UAE.
The late mayor was arrested in October for illegal possession of drugs and firearms.
During the pre-dawn raid at the Baybay sub-provincial jail on November 5, Espinosa was killed by an operative from the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), who claimed the local executive fired at the police.
Also killed was inmate Raul Yap. The raiding team, which had secured a search warrant for illegal drugs and firearms from a Samar court, reported finding guns and sachets of shabu inside the cells of Espinosa and Yap.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, and other lawmakers suspect Espinosa was silenced to cover the tracks of drug syndicates and their protectors. Espinosa had executed an affidavit listing the names of personalities involved in the drug trade.
Lawmakers have questioned why the CIDG had to secure a search warrant on Espinosa considering the latter was already in jail, and why the raid had to be done at 4 a.m. and without coordination with jail guards.
Witness protection eyed
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd said that the DOJ was looking at placing the Espinosa family, including Kerwin, under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) to ensure their security amid the investigation into the late mayor’s killing.
Aguirre told The Manila Times that no less than the Philippine ambassador in Abu Dhabi had confirmed that Kerwin wanted to be placed under the WPP.
“I just talked to Senior Supt. Alberto Ferro, the one in charge of anti-illegal drugs operatives in Camp Crame, and he himself told me that Kerwin is ready to execute his affidavit so his application for WPP would start rolling,” the Cabinet official said.
“Once they get the person of Kerwin and bring him back to the Philippines, they are going to turn him over and study his sworn statement [to determine]whether he can be placed under WPP,” he added.
Aguirre said Kerwin’s repatriation was being worked out and he would be flying out from Abu Dhabi this Sunday.
Kerwin will be placed under the custody of the PNP once he arrives in Manila, he said.
Aguirre said the Espinosa family members, up to second degree, would be accepted in the WPP.
“We want to ensure their safety,” he said. “Considering what happened to the father, anything can happen.”
Duterte to accept result of slay probe
Malacañang on Saturday said President Duterte would go by the official results of the investigation, even after the Chief Executive took the side of the raiding team that killed Espinosa.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said Duterte was merely assuming that the authorities were acting “along the lines of regularity.”
“It’s not as if he’s made up his mind. The investigation continues and the whole process will unfold. But at this point, he’s simply saying what he has already said that he will stand by what the police has said,” Abella said.
In a news conference in Davao City on Friday, Duterte said he believed the police version of the event – that Espinosa was killed because he fought back – even if senators think the killing of Espinosa was premeditated.
“I believe in the version of the police,” Duterte told reporters following his arrival from an official visit to Malaysia.