Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed inside the Baybay City sub-provincial jail where he was detained after he allegedly fought back against police agents seeking to serve a search warrant for “illegal firearms” on him early Saturday morning.
Another inmate, Raul Yap, who was the subject of a separate search warrant, was also killed in another cell.
Interestingly, when first sought for information, Chief Inspector Bella Rentuaya, spokesperson of Police Regional Office 8, said they knew nothing because it was “purely a CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) operation at about 4 a.m. today.”
And provincial jail warden Homobono Bardillon, in a message, said: “I cannot make a statement as of the moment pending investigation. We don’t have a copy of (the search warrant) as of this time.”
He added he could not even access the detention area of the jail as of this posting because it was still being processed by a police Scene of the Crime Operations team.
Later, the regional police released an “initial report” saying the operation was carried out by CIDG-8 led by Chief Inspector Leo Laraga.
It said the warrant on Espinosa was “for violation of RA (Republic Act) 10591,” or the “Act providing for a comprehensive law on firearms and ammunition and providing penalties for violations thereof.” The warrant on Yap was for RA 9165, or the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.”
Both warrants were issued by Judge Tarcelo Sabarre Jr. of the Regional Trial Court branch 30 in Basey,Samar.
In a terse account of the operation’s outcome, the police report said: “Implementation resulted to the death of Mayor Rolando E. Espinosa and Raul Yap.”
However, radio reports said the CIDG agents had to force open the gate of the detention facility to serve the warrants because the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology would not hand over the keys.
Espinosa, who was locked up in Cell 1 while awaiting trial on drug charges, allegedly fired on the agents and was killed in the exchange of shots.
It was not clear how Yap, who is also detained on drug charges and was in Cell 7 with six other inmates, was killed. But none of his cellmates was hurt, the reports said.
Espinosa was one of the first local government officials to be publicly accused by President Rodrigo Duterte of involvement in the illegal drug trade. His son, Kerwin, allegedly one of the top drug lords in the Visayas, was recently arrested in the Middle East, where he appears to have fled.
Soon after his surrender, police killed six gunmen, allegedly members of a private army maintained by the Espinosas, at their homes in Albuera.
The mayor had earlier surrendered to Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa but later returned to Albuera and resumed working. He was subsequently charged in court and ordered arrested.
Espinosa had also turned over to authorities a list of people, including other government and law enforcement officials, as well as media, purportedly within their drug network.