Cebu News

Warrant implementation or execution? Espinosa begging cops before shots rang out

Miriam Garcia Desacada - The Freeman

ALBUERA LEYTE, Philippines — "Ayaw gud ko ninyo planteri sir, wa koy armas nga gitago (Please do not plant evidence on me, sir, I am not hiding any gun here)."

These were the words jail guards heard that Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. uttered before they heard gunshots from inside the mayor's cell during the supposed operation by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-8 inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay last Saturday.

CIDG-8 claimed they were serving Espinosa a search warrant for illegal firearms when the mayor and Raul Yap, another inmate, allegedly opened fire, allegedly forcing its operatives to return fire and kill the two.

Leyte Provincial Jail Warden Homobono Bardillon yesterday said they are ready to air their side on what really transpired that resulted to Yap and Espinosa's death.

He said that around 4:10 a.m. last Saturday, around 18 CIDG operatives and two members of the Maritime police arrived at the sub-provincial jail in Baybay. The jail, Bardillon said, allegedly tried to bar them from getting inside because the visitors did not provide a copy of the supposed search warrant.

But the operatives already got inside and subsequently ordered the seven jail guards to kneel down and face the wall while the "operation" was being done. The jail guards then heard gunshots from inside the cell of Espinosa, but not before they heard the mayor beg the CIDG operatives.

"They heard gunshot fired inside the cell of Espinosa while the slain mayor was begging from the CIDG operatives," Bardillon said.

He likewise insisted that based on their initial findings, the CIDG operatives also forcibly took the hard disk of their CCTV, whose footage would have been crucial to shed light as to what really happened.

He said the four policemen who were supposedly at the jail to secure the mayor were not able to do anything, as the CIDG operatives also warned them against intervening in the operation.

"Walang silang nagawa; otherwise, malaking gulo," he said.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Marvin Marcos, head of CIDG-8, yesterday expressed his willingness to face any investigation and submit himself and his men to any inquiry.

He maintained that they were just serving a warrant issued by Basey, Samar Executive Judge Tarcelo Sabarre and that the two slain men were the first ones who opened fire, that his men were allegedly just defending themselves.

He said he welcomes any investigation to establish once and for all if indeed they violated any rules of engagement in the implementation of the search warrant, and appealed to the public to "stop speculations" as to why Espinosa was killed.

Tagged as involved in drug trafficking with his son Kerwin, Espinosa has "surrendered" to Philippine National Police Chief Roland "Bato" dela Rosa and has presumably cooperated with authorities.

On October 13, the Albuera (Leyte) Police Station filed before the Ombudsman drugs complaint against former Justice secretary now Senator Leila De Lima and Barangay Binulho (Albuera town) Councilman Nelson Pepito Jr., and drug cases before the Provincial Prosecutor's Office against lawyer Jonah John Ungab, Ormoc City businessman Wennie Codilla, and Ormoc City-based journalists Lalaine Marcos-Jimenea, John Pilapil, and Leo Dumon.

"Yes we are willing to submit any probe and cooperate. This is also an avenue for us especially those who are part of the CIDG operatives who served the search warrant to clear their names and the CIDG of course, and speculations will not help in the investigation.  Let's wait for the result, whatever investigation may come" he said.

He denied Bardillon's claim that the CIDG-8 operatives forcibly took the hard disk of the jail facility's CCTV recording.

"That is a blatant lie....  Why should we get and destroy a vital facility which is not ours?" he said.

Bardillon, though, maintained the hard disk has been taken.

Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Jovie Espinedo, Albuera police chief, also called for a fair investigation into the motive behind the killing of the two suspected drug lords.

It may be recalled that after mayor Espinosa's arrest on September 6, Espinedo already anticipated that the mayor's life would be at risk if he (Espinosa) would be detained in another jail facility after seeking refuge at the Albuera police office.

"I was already talking about the danger to his life, and so it finally happened…. I was so aggressive then asking the court to place Espinosa back in the custody of the Albuera police, but we had to respect the decision of the court," he told reporters.

Unconfirmed reports have also surfaced that CIDG personnel who are now respondents of administrative and criminal charges for allegedly receiving drug payola from the Espinosas were among those who served the warrant on Yap and the mayor.

Meanwhile, several government agencies and top officials had assured that there would be a credible investigation into Espinosa and Yap's death.

Senator Panfilo Lacson called for a senate inquiry, while the National Bureau of Investigation and dela Rosa already ordered a thorough and in-depth investigation against the CIDG operatives who served the search warrant.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno has also separately ordered the PNP to find out the truth behind the alleged shootout CIDG-8 claimed allegedly happened.  Sueno wanted to know if CIDG observed standard operating procedure in the enforcement of the said search warrant.

Espinosa's remains is currently at St. Peter funeral homes in Ormoc, with only close family members being allowed to view for the meantime.

Maricar, daughter of slain mayor, said in an interview the "perfect gift" they could ask for from the government this Christmas is a sincere conduct of a fair investigation into her father's death.

"We are still hoping for real justice over the death of a helpless father, who was murdered helpless while behind bars," she said.

She also asked the government to provide security to her brother, Kerwin, who was reported to have already arrived in Leyte after his arrest last month and would be put in jail also in Baybay.

Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar, Police Regional Office-8 director, reassured that that security measures are in place. He also clarified that his office or the local police unit had no participation in the CIDG-8 operation, which is a national support unit. — / RHM (FREEMAN)

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