Espinosa lawyer, girl killed in Leyte ambush

Lalaine Jimenea - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The lawyer of alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa and his father Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte and a teenage girl were gunned down yesterday by still unidentified men in Tacloban City.

Killed were lawyer Rogelio Bato Jr. and Angelica Bonita, 15, a resident of Fatima Village and a student of a nearby public high school. It is not clear why Bonita was with Bato.

Bato and Bonita were riding in the lawyer’s car when the suspects ambushed them at around 2:30 p.m. in Barangay Lumbang II in Tacloban.

City police chief Sr. Supt. Rolando Bade said witnesses told investigators that they saw a white Hi-lux pickup following Bato’s car. As the gunmen sped, ahead the occupants started firing at the lawyer’s car.

Investigators recovered empty shells of an M16 rifle and a caliber .45 pistol at the crime scene.

Bato was a native of Samar.

The lawyer had represented the younger Espinosa in his drug-related cases, and those of his accomplices caught for either drugs or illegal possession of firearms.

There are speculations that the lawyer was killed so that no one would represent the Espinosa.

“From behind, the suspects’ vehicle sped up, and when the pick-up was beside the victims’ vehicle, gunmen shot the victims repeatedly. After the shooting, the suspects’ vehicle then maneuvered out of the one-way road and sped off,” said Bade in a phone interview.

Police Officer 2 Harvey Subido of the local Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) said the victims suffered at least five gunshot wounds each.

“They died on the spot. We recovered at least 10 empty shells for M16 rifle. We are still accounting for other empty shells which appear to be coming from a caliber .45 pistol,” he added.

Initial investigation showed the victims appeared to have just come from the lawyer’s house located near the ambush site.

Bade described the ambush site as not a populated area, which the assassins found ideal to stage the ambush.

Investigators are still looking for witnesses to give them more information about the gunmen.

Mayor Espinosa had earlier surrendered to Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa in Camp Crame, Quezon City after being given 24 hours by President Duterte to surrender.

He was subsequently released since there were no charges filed against the mayor at the time.

Bade said they could not make any statement on whether the killing was connected with Bato’s being a lawyer of Espinosa, who has been linked to illegal drug operations in Eastern Visayas through his son Kerwin.

Tagged as drug supplier in Eastern Visayas, Kerwin was reportedly directly getting drugs from Peter Co, a drug lord detained at the New Bilibid Prison.

Police have filed several charges against him in connection with the death of six of his men in a clash with police and the raid on his house where 11 kilos of shabu worth P88 million and a cache of firearms were seized.

Interior Secretary Ismael Sueño earlier confirmed that policemen were assigned to monitor the movements of Espinosa while waiting for the arrest warrant on the cases slapped against him. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Rolex Elmido/The Freeman

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