Espinosa
Kerwin nabbed in Abu Dhabi
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa was arrested in Abu Dhabi yesterday, three months after President Duterte tagged him and his father Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte as the top drug traffickers in Eastern Visayas.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the younger Espinosa was collared by a team led by Senior Supt. Albert Ignatius Ferro, head of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG), in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.

“Just this morning at around 2 a.m., our team from Anti-Illegal Drugs Group in coordination with the Criminal Investigation Division of the Abu Dhabi Police, arrested the drug lord Kerwin Espinosa,” Dela Rosa told a press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Dela Rosa said Espinosa is now under the custody of the Abu Dhabi police. He, however, said that the PNP is checking if the documentary requirements have been completed to allow him to fly back to Manila.

“I do not know if all the documentary requirements will be done today, maybe they can now travel. If not, it will depend on the first available flight after the suspect is cleared to travel to the Philippines,” Dela Rosa noted.

He said Espinosa was tracked down by the PNP with the help of some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who spotted him somewhere in Abu Dhabi.

He said the information from the OFWs prompted him to send the AIDG team to Abu Dhabi to coordinate and verify the information with the local police.

“It was a result of tips from OFWs. We received calls from them saying that Kerwin is in Abu Dhabi. Some of them even told us the building where Kerwin has been staying,” said Dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa expressed gratitude for the support of OFWs in Abu Dhabi in the campaign against illegal drugs that led to the arrest of Espinosa.

Last July, President Duterte named Espinosa and his father as among the top drug personalities in the country.

The President even gave a shoot-to-kill order against the father and son. The father surrendered a few days later but was allowed to leave Camp Crame because no charges had been filed against him.

Several days later, members of the Albuera police raided the house of the Espinosas and seized 11.5 kilos of shabu and a cache of firearms.

Another police operation at the house of the Espinosas resulted in a shootout that left six of the mayor’s bodyguards dead.

Police later filed charges of illegal possession of illegal drugs and firearms against Mayor Espinosa and his son.

The court eventually issued a warrant against the father and son. The mayor is now detained at the Leyte Provincial Jail in Baybay City.

The younger Espinosa, on the other hand, went into hiding until his arrest yesterday.

From the Philippines, Espinosa reportedly slipped out of the country and went to Malaysia and later to Abu Dhabi.

“He went directly to Abu Dhabi from Malaysia. He was able to do that because during that time, no arrest warrant was issued against him. But his stay there is limited so he went to several travel agencies there, asking for help on how his stay could be extended,” he added.

Dela Rosa said OFWs spotted the younger Espinosa while he was processing his papers for his temporary stay in Abu Dhabi.

With the publication of Espinosa’s photograph on traditional and social media, Dela Rosa said some OFWs recognized the alleged drug lord and relayed this to the PNP.

The PNP chief said Espinosa was not yet included in the red notice since the court had just issued his warrant of arrest and the PNP has yet to coordinate with its counterpart in Abu Dhabi.

Possible witness

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II revealed yesterday that the younger Espinosa could also be used as a witness in the drug charges against Sen. Leila de Lima.

“If he agrees, he will be used as a witness,” Aguirre told reporters.

The DOJ chief said Espinosa might be prompted to spill the beans on his alleged links to De Lima, who is facing preliminary investigation in the DOJ for allegedly conspiring with other former officials in collecting drug money from high-profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“If he passes the assessment of the WPP (witness protection program), then we will offer immunity to Kerwin,” Aguirre bared.

He cited the photo showing De Lima and Espinosa, which he said could show their close relationship.

He pointed out that Espinosa and De Lima were both named respondents in the drug charges filed before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas last week by Chief Insp. Juvie Espinido, Albuera police chief.

Also included in the complaint filed at the Ombudsman Regional Office 8 in Tacloban City were three members of the Leyte media – broadcasters Leo Dumon and John Pilapil, and local newspaper publisher Lalaine Jimenea-Ronda, Cebu Vice Mayor Jonnah John Ungab, a lawyer of the Espinosas; Victor Espina, Winnie Codilla, Joseph Nunez and Nelson Pepito Jr., a councilman of Barangay Binolho in Albuera.

The complaint was filed following the arraignment of Mayor Espinosa before a trial court in Baybay City on firearms and drug charges.

Espinido said that with the arrest of Kerwin many things would be cleared in court.

“I am happy because as if we are rewarded in all our efforts in the investigation, intelligence until we were able to get the real link in the illegal drug trade, including personalities in the government listed as protector and cohorts of the Espinosa illegal activities, we are expecting some important information from Kerwin,” Espinido said.

Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, acting Eastern Visayas police director, said the arrest of Espinosa proved the success of the double barrel program of the PNP in bringing suspected drug lords before the bar of justice. – With Edu Punay, Miriam Desacada

 

KERWIN ESPINOSA
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