Leyte town mayor tied to drugs back to work
ALBUERA, Leyte—Guess who’s back at the municipal hall?
Fifteen days after going on official leave to appear in Camp Crame in Quezon City and to answer drug trafficking charges, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. reported for work on Tuesday, preferring the comforts of his office than his home.
“Because of the danger to my life, I have decided to stay in the municipal hall for my safety. It doesn’t help also that I no longer have police escorts,” Espinosa told a news conference shortly after arriving at the municipal hall.
The National Police Commission withdrew the mayor’s authority over the local police in an en banc resolution dated Aug. 11, a day after 11 kilos of “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) with a street value of P88 million, several guns and bomb-making materials were found in his son’s mansion in Barangay Benolho here.
In an earlier statement, Espinosa said he did not own the illegal drugs hidden inside the cabinet under the kitchen sink of the house, adding that these were planted by the raiders led by Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, municipal police chief, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
Espenido denied the accusation.
On July 28, Espinosa’s bodyguards and employees were arrested during a buy-bust operation near the houses of the mayor and his son Kerwin Espinosa. At least P1.9 million worth of shabu was recovered during the operation.
A 24-hour deadline to surrender or be shot on sight was immediately imposed by President Duterte for Espinosa and his son.
On Aug. 4, Jose Antepuesto and Marcelo Adorco, the two employees caught earlier, accused the mayor of being involved in his son’s alleged illegal drugs activities.
Two days later, at least 30 policemen raided the gated three-story mansion of Kerwin in Sitio Tinago, Barangay Benolho. Six people, tagged as hired goons of Kerwin, were gunned down while four escaped.
That same day, Espinosa tearfully denied any involvement in his son’s drug trade and made a plea for Kerwin to turn himself in as soon as possible.
Camp Crame appearance
On Aug. 2, the mayor showed up at the PNP headquarters in Quezon City and surrendered to PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, beating the deadline set by the President for him and his 36-year-old son to surrender. He denied protecting his son and tearfully pleaded for him to give up.
After the raid on his house, Leyte and Albuera police filed a complaint against Espinosa in the provincial prosecutor’s office in Tacloban City for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002 (Republic Act No. 9165). A summon has yet to be issued to the mayor to formally answer the complaint.
Although stripped of police bodyguards, Espinosa thanked President Duterte and Dela Rosa for giving him a chance to clear his name.
Last week, Espinosa accused Espenido of harassing him and his family, saying the police officer had warned that he would have the mayor’s head hung on a flagpole. Espenido laughed off the allegation.
On Aug. 6, the mayor left Camp Crame at 7:30 a.m. after he staying at the “White House,” the official residence of Dela Rosa.
But instead of flying to Leyte, he went to Cebu City, where his family was originally from, and had himself confined in a suite of a private hospital.
During his absence in Albuera, the police secured a warrant to raid his house in Benolho.
On Tuesday, Espinosa left Cebu, took a fastcraft and arrived in Ormoc City about 8 a.m. He then drove for 25 minutes to Albuera.
“I now believe that the people of Albuera love me because they know me personally. I won because of their mandate,” Espinosa said, wiping away his tears, shortly after arriving at the municipal hall.
The mayor was hugged by employees and supporters. He was accompanied by his brother, Ramon, daughter Mariel, who works as his executive secretary, and a few relatives. With a report from Inquirer Research
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