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Leyte town’s Espinosas tagged big-time drug traders

Shabu is family business; Son Kerwin learned craft from drug lord Jaguar Diaz
/ 12:10 AM August 03, 2016

ALBUERA, Leyte – A few days after Rodrigo Duterte was elected President in May, Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. was no longer visible in this town.

His disappearance may have something to do with their “family business,” an open secret in this  third class town with a population of about 40,000.

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Senior Supt. Frank Simborio, Leyte police director, said Kerwin and his father, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., were considered “high value” targets in the Philippine National Police’s war on drugs.

Simborio said Kerwin has been operating his illegal drug trade not only in Leyte but in other parts of Eastern Visayas and Cebu.

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“He belongs to our category as level three meaning, he is at the highest level. This means that he operates big time and as far as the police provincial director said, the Espinosa family operates the illegal drug trade as a ‘family enterprise.’”

“They are into the illegal drug trade, running it as a family enterprise, a business with the son (leading the illegal trade),” Simborio said.

Using the proceeds from the drug sale, his family bought pieces of property. The family even owns a hotel in Albuera.

Kerwin stood as the drug lord while his other siblings were allegedly in charge of the financial side of the business, particularly, the collection of earnings.

Jose Antipuesto, a drug peddler who was arrested outside the compound owned by the mayor in Albuera last month, told the police that the drug trade was operated by the elder Espinosa with Kerwin as his right hand and muscle man. But the elder Espinosa stopped two years ago in preparation for his mayoral candidacy. Kerwin, however, continued the family business.

The elder Espinosa ran as an independent candidate and defeated his three opponents including, Mayor Ramon de la Cerna Jr. who resigned from his post on May 19.

De la Cerna cited a “health” reason for his resignation but there were reports he was facing threats and had security problems.

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Police sources said Kerwin learned the drug trade from Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz, considered a big time drug lord in Central Visayas.  Diaz was slain by the police in Las Piñas City in Metro Manila in June.

Talks had it that Kerwin went to work for Diaz in Cebu City and Diaz introduced him to the trade. When he went back to Leyte, he put up his own illegal drugs business and made it big.

He was arrested nine times – the last was in 2015.

But he managed to get out of detention sometimes due to a technicality since the warrants misspelled his name as “Rolan.”

A source from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Kerwin was once released from detention on the intervention of a police official who tagged him as police asset.

His neighbors at Sitio Tinago, Barangay Benolho in this town, also protected him and his family because of their generosity.

The family would host banquets on weekends for their neighbors who were mostly urban poor. The food and the drinks including liquor were overflowing.

Before the day would end, the family would hand in money – P200-P300 – each.

Kerwin was described as a “nice guy” as long as you didn’t cross his path.

What caught his ire were shabu dealers who would not pay him and competitors.

But in 2011, Kerwin’s name became popular when he was charged for shooting then District 7 Chairman Andres Turtogo Jr. inside his house on April 11 that year.

He and two companions — Noel Arcayan, and Roberto Dela Cruz — were charged with frustrated murder. They were released on bail and the case remained pending.

Since then, there had been a series of killings believed to have been caused by debts from shabu. The usual name floated as suspect  “Boss K” who was reportedly Kerwin’s name in the underworld.
But the Espinosas knew change was coming when Chief Insp. Jove Espinido was appointed Albuera police chief on July 19.

Unlike the other police chiefs assigned in the town, Espinido didn’t pay a courtesy call to Mayor Espinosa.

Instead, it was Espinido who asked the mayor to meet him in his office.

The Espinosas started to get scared when they heard talks that Espinido would shoot the mayor and his son on sight due to their involvement on illegal drugs.

The mayor went on leave in early July and was last seen at his office on July 25 to sign payroll.

But Espinido said his invitation was merely to give the mayor and his son a chance to surrender because the illegal drugs trade had become a family business.

On July 28, Espinido and his team conducted a buy bust operation on Kerwin’s underling – Antipuesto at the tennis court in front of the mayor’s compound.

When the undercover policeman announced it was a sting operation, several men at the tennis court scampered in different directions.

Antipuesto and four others were arrested. Four managed to escape by running into the mayor’s compound and locking the gate.

Arrested were two bodyguards of the mayor,  Jessie Ocares, 34; and Marcelo Adorco, 40 – and his three employees –  Jose Jearnie Estrera, Ernesto Dumalat and Antipuesto.  SFM

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