Leyte mayor linked to drugs surrenders

(The Philippine Star) - August 3, 2016 - 12:00am

27 local execs in PNP ‘order of battle’

MANILA, Philippines – Facing a “shoot-on-sight” order, Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, who is allegedly involved in illegal drugs, surrendered to authorities yesterday before the expiration of a 24-hour ultimatum issued by President Duterte.

Espinosa reportedly met with Duterte at Malacañang before presenting himself to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

The mayor’s son Kerwin remains at large and has reportedly altered his appearance through surgery to avoid arrest. Kerwin is still covered by the shoot-on-sight order.

Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said yesterday that at least 27 local executives are now in the “order of battle” of the intelligence units of the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

A majority of those in the list are from the provinces.

Duterte last Monday issued the shoot-on-sight order if the Espinosas resisted arrest and failed to surrender after the ultimatum expired. Father and son are being investigated for allegedly coddling drug traffickers.

Espinosa is the first local executive linked to the narcotics trade under the Duterte administration.

Duterte demanded Espinosa’s surrender three days after two of the mayor’s security aides and three companions were caught with illegal drugs in an operation in Barangay Benolho in Albuera town. Police reported recovering over 200 grams of shabu, two pistols and ammunition from the suspects.

Duterte has vowed to reveal the names of police generals and local executives involved in illegal drugs as part of his campaign against drug traffickers.

Dela Rosa said Espinosa, fearing for his life, showed up at PNP headquarters at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

The PNP chief said the mayor admitted his son has been in cahoots with Peter Co, one of the high-value drug convicts at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa.

In the drug trade hierarchy, Dela Rosa said Kerwin operated at a level similar to Jeffrey Diaz, alias Jaguar, the top drug lord in Central Visayas who was shot dead by police operatives in Las Piñas last June 19.

The mayor claimed that he last spoke to Kerwin on May 7.

Dela Rosa presented the mayor to reporters at the lobby of the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame.

“Mayor Espinosa surrendered on Monday, but I just attended to him at around 4 a.m. yesterday. I reported to the President before I attended to him. The mayor vowed to cooperate with the anti-illegal drug operations,” Dela Rosa said.

The PNP chief admitted that the police could not detain the mayor, who has no pending arrest warrant and or charges filed against him.

“I asked the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) to conduct an investigation on him,” said Dela Rosa. “What is important is that he heeded the call to surrender.”

Dela Rosa clarified that the order of “shoot on sight” is still on against Kerwin, who has reportedly fled abroad to escape prosecution.

Dela Rosa, however, believes the son is still in the country.

The elder Espinosa confessed that his son had plastic surgery and now looks like him. The father said he himself had a nose lift.

Dela Rosa was quick to clarify that there was no special treatment extended to Espinosa.

The PNP chief said the elder Espinosa has made some significant revelations about the illegal operations of his son.

Dela Rosa said Espinosa disclosed that Kerwin gets his supply from Co and another drug convict serving time at the Abuyog Penitentiary run by the Bureau of Corrections in Abuyog, Leyte.

Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, acting director of the Eastern Visayas police, has ordered a manhunt for Kerwin.

Senior Supt. Franco Simborio, Leyte PNP provincial director, said that prior to the order of President Duterte for Espinosa to surrender, a special team was formed by the regional PNP office to conduct surveillance operations on the Espinosas.

More local officials

Panelo said President Duterte is ready to name the local executives involved in drugs.

“Basta ang sabi ni Presidente, kilala ko ito pero (the President said I know this one but) I have a duty to serve and protect the (people),” Panelo said.

Panelo said he was surprised that he knows some of the drug personalities.

When reporters pressed Panelo for details, he said he suddenly had amnesia.

According to Panelo, the President has directed concerned agencies to conduct an investigation on those implicated in illegal drugs.

Dela Rosa also revealed yesterday that some governors and mayors involved in the operations of illegal drugs are now hiding in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

“They maybe seeking safe haven, safe refuge there,” said Dela Rosa.

The PNP chief said police operatives would not stop from pursuing these local officials who should be held liable for coddling drug lords.

Dela Rosa said the President may ask the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to take action against the local government officials linked to drugs.

“The President has the list of these local executives involved in illegal drugs. I can’t reveal their identities, only the President can make public their names,” the PNP chief added.

The DILG urged the public to report local officials involved in illegal drugs.

DILG Assistant Secretary Epima Densing III said that the community, which plays an important role in the battle against illegal drugs, should report to the agency the local officials that are coddling drug pushers.

Densing said that the report should be accompanied with sufficient evidence so that the DILG could proceed with the investigation.

He said that the department could initiate an investigation if the accusation against the local government officials has sound basis.

Densing assured informants of their safety if they report local officials involved in illegal drugs.

‘Narco generals’

Meanwhile, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) has clarified that the probe on the alleged links of top police generals to illegal drug syndicates is still ongoing and two of the so-called narco generals were given until yesterday to refute the findings of an investigation team looking into their cases.

Napolcom vice chairman Rogelio Casurao said that administrative charges could be filed against Director Joel Pagdilao and Chief Supt. Edgardo Tinio based on evidence gathered against them for allegedly protecting drug lords.

“The documentary evidence included the Statements of Assets and Liabilities of the two police officials,” Casurao said in a radio interview.

Casurao said the investigating team sent requests to Pagdilao and Tinio for interview to give them the chance to file their comment.

He said the documentary evidence against the police officials were gathered from public records of various government agencies.

“These are not formal charges yet, only findings arrived at by the team,” Casurao said.

“There will be basis already to come up with probable cause, a lot of standard operating procedures and police operating procedures have not been observed,” he added. “Under our present rules it can warrant an administrative investigation that can lead to a verdict that will involve separation from service.”

Casurao admitted that the Napolcom has yet to find any direct link of Pagdilao and Tinio to alleged participation in the drug trade.

The President alleged that five police generals – Pagdilao, Tinio, retired police general Marcelo Garbo, retired police general and now Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot, active Chief Supt. Bernardo Diaz – are linked to illegal drugs or are protectors.

Tinio submitted his more than 40-page counter-affidavit before the Napolcom yesterday on possible administrative cases that he may face.

Tinio reiterated that President Duterte may have been misinformed. – With Perseus Echeminada, Robertzon Ramirez, Miriam Desacada

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