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Kerwin’s run ends in Abu Dhabi

Espinosa in file photo after an earlier arrest in Leyte.

Espinosa in file photo after an earlier arrest in Leyte.

Alleged big-time drug lord Kerwin Espinosa was arrested on Monday by Abu Dhabi police after he was spotted by overseas Filipino workers in a travel agency in that city in the United Arab Emirates, Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa announced.

In a press conference, Dela Rosa said Espinosa was arrested at 2 a.m. by the Abu Dhabi Police at the building where he was staying.

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The warrant of arrest served on Espinosa, however, which was issued by the Regional Trial Court of Baybay, Leyte, was for illegal possession of firearms and not for possession of illegal drugs.

Espinosa was arrested by virtue of a Red Notice issued by Interpol-Lyons.

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Dela Rosa said he sent a team from the PNP’s Anti-Illegal Drugs Group to coordinate with the Philippine police attaché who in turn informed the Abu Dhabi Police about Espinosa’s warrant of arrest.

The PNP arresting team was composed of Police Senior Supt. Albert Ignatius Ferro, acting director of the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, Senior Supt. Randy Peralta and Senior Supt. Alden Delve, with the assistance of Senior Supt. Enrique Magalona, Philippine police attaché-Middle East, and in coordination with the Philippine Embassy in the UAE.

Father in jail

Espinosa, tagged as a bigtime drug lord in Eastern Visayas, is the son of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who is also in jail on drug charges.

“The information came from the PNP team but they could not take part in the actual arrest of Espinosa. They were there to monitor and coordinate,” Dela Rosa said.

Espinosa is now in the custody of the Abu Dhabi Police and is waiting to be brought back to Manila by Ferro pending the processing of documentary requirements for his extradition. They will take the first available flight to Manila.

In Abu Dhabi, Espinosa went to a travel agency to work out the extension of his visa when he was recognized by other Filipinos.

It was then that the warrant for possession of unlicensed firearms was issued by the court here.

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Aguirre offer

Meanwhile, the administration is ready to provide protection for Espinosa should he decide to testify against Sen. Leila de Lima, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told reporters on Monday.

Espinosa may be asked to testify against De Lima and other persons accused of receiving drug money from him.

“If he will agree, he can be a witness [against De Lima]. But I’m sure he will agree,” Aguirre said.

“If he will qualify in the assessment of the WPP (Witness Protection Program), then we will offer immunity to Kerwin,” he said.

Aguirre said the Department of Justice was ready to prove Espinosa’s supposed association with the senator, who had been pictured by President Duterte’s allies as the biggest drug coddler in the country.

Espinosa, who went into hiding after President Duterte won election in May, had been arrested and charged several times.

On Oct. 12 this year, police filed criminal complaints at the Department of Justice regional office in Tacloban City, Leyte, against Espinosa and seven others, who were allegedly part of the fugitive’s syndicate.

On March 5, 2015, Espinosa was arrested in Tacloban City by police in connection with his illegal drug operation but was later released without charges.

In 2011, Espinosa and two companions—Noel Arcayan and Roberto de la Cruz—were charged with frustrated murder after allegedly shooting and wounding a local official, Andres Turtogo Jr., in his house on April 11 that year. They were released on bail and the case remains pending.

Explain list

Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, Albuera police chief, said Espinosa would be asked to explain the names in the ledger of those who allegedly received money from his illegal drugs operation.

“Only Espinosa could explain the list,” said Espenido.

The Inquirer tried to get a statement from Espinosa’s family on his arrest but Mariel Espinosa, his sister, said they would issue a statement in due time.

Siblings Mariel, April and Roland Kevin looked happy that their brother was alive and would be brought home.

Espenido said the young Espinosa has four pending arrest warrants issued by Judge Carlos Arguelles of the Regional Trial Court in Baybay, Leyte.

Espenido said Espinosa would be brought to the Baybay court, which issued the warrants, once extradited to the Philippines from the United Arab Emirates.

He said Espinosa should explain the participation of those in his ledgers and whom the police chief haled to court and to the Office of the Ombudsman.

These people were accused of receiving either protection or grease money from Espinosa, who allegedly ran the biggest drug ring in Eastern Visayas, comprising Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar and Biliran. —WITH INQUIRER RESEARCH

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TAGS: Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Drug war, Drugs, Kerwin Espinosa, Philippine National Police, Philippine news updates, United Arab Emirates
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