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Leyte mayor Espinosa nabbed over drugs, guns

Albuera town mayor Rolando Espinosa was arrested after a warrant of arrest was issued on Wednesday. PNP PIO/Released, file

BAYBAY CITY, Leyte (Philippines News Agency) — Beleaguered Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Jr. was arrested earlier Wednesday for possession of illegal drugs and firearms.

Leyte police provincial director Sr. Supt. Franco Simborio led the arresting team around 10:50 a.m. The mayor was transferred from the Albuera police station where he had been under protective custody to a sub provincial jail in Baybay City.

Espinosa was placed in detention in a sub-provincial jail following his arrest.

Judge Carlos Arguelles of the Regional Trial Court Branch 14 in Baybay City issued the warrant of arrest on Tuesday or a day after the provincial prosecutor's office recommended the filing of cases against the mayor and his son, Kerwin Espinosa, the alleged top drug lord in Eastern Visayas.

The Espinosas are facing charges for violations of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

The prosecutor on Tuesday found "probable cause" for the filing of criminal complaints against the Espinosas.

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Arguelles said the court only issued the warrant of arrest on Wednesday since it took time for the provincial prosecutor's office to complete preliminary investigation.

"We should not be faulted, the court only acts on cases that are filed. The court has nothing to do with the delay if there's any because the case was only filed on Monday afternoon," Arguelles told reporters.

"Yesterday I conducted personal examination on the resolution of the prosecution including the evidences and I was satisfied that a probable cause exists against the accused," he added.

The judge assured that there would be no special treatment for the mayor, saying the "superiority of the court's power to detain him in an ordinary penal institution."

"He will be treated as an ordinary detainee. These cases are just ordinary. The only thing is that this is sensationalized. The only fact is that the person involved is a public official," he said.

The two cases are stemmed from a police raid on the mayor's house that yielded 11 kilograms of shabu worth an estimated P88 million and high-powered firearms.

It can be recalled that Espinosa surrendered to police chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa on August 2 a few hours after President Rodrigo Duterte demanded for his surrender and Kerwin within 24 hours or face a "shoot on sight." The son remained at-large.

After four days, Dela Rosa kicked out Espinosa from his official residence after the son failed to meet the deadline for him to surrender.

The mayor was admitted in a hospital in Cebu after he left Camp Crame on August 6.

He returned to his hometown on August 16 and stayed at the town hall day and night for about a week before he asked for police protection.

Driven by fear for his life, the mayor had temporarily held office at the town police station since August 25. His son has been hiding in Malaysia, according to police reports.

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