Lacson: Espinosa slay a case of badly written script
A case of bad script.
That’s how Sen. Panfilo Lacson describes the mess the Philippine National Police are in after the shooting death of Albuera, Leyte, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. inside his cell in the provincial jail early on Saturday.
Lacson is chair of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, which will look into the suspected silencing of Espinosa to protect the identities of high-ranking police officials protecting the illegal drug trade.
The inquiry, which begins on Thursday, will be conducted jointly with the committee on justice and human rights headed by Sen. Richard Gordon and will also look into the Oct. 28 deaths of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom and nine of his men in what police claimed was a “shootout” in Makilala, North Cotabato province.
In a radio interview and talk with reporters on Monday, Lacson said there were many questions about how a 15-officer team from the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 (Eastern Visayas) conducted an alleged raid on Espinosa’s cell.
CIDG-8 claimed that the team was serving a search warrant for weapons and drugs on Espinosa in his cell at the jail in Baybay City around 4 a.m. on Saturday when the detained mayor fired on the officers, forcing them to fire back.
Espinosa was killed, along with another inmate, Raul Yap, who also allegedly shot it out with the policemen.
Lacson questioned why the policemen were serving an arrest warrant on Espinosa at 4 a.m. He also questioned the necessity of a warrant in searching a jail for drugs and weapons.
“Even Chief PNP (Ronald) dela Rosa said a search warrant is not needed if it is a government facility, especially a jail,” Lacson said.
He also noted other questionable actions taken by the CIDG-8 team. Aside from ordering the jail guards out, the CIDG-8 team also disarmed maritime policemen stationed nearby instead of coordinating its operation with them, Lacson said.
Before they left, the policemen took the hard drive from the security cameras at the jail.
“I find the script was not well-done. There are more questions than answers in the incident,” Lacson said.
Espinosa surrendered to the PNP in August after President Duterte publicly linked him and more than 100 other public and police officials to illegal drugs.
The mayor denied the allegations and was released, but he was arrested again after being indicted on drug and weapons charges.
In denying the drug charges, Espinosa disclosed that his son, Kerwin, was a drug dealer who operated extensively in the Visayas.
Kerwin fled the country, but he was arrested last month in Abu Dhabi. He learned about his father’s death when he called home on Saturday.
Mayor Espinosa reportedly submitted a statement to police linking 226 government, military and police officials, including seven from the CIDG, to the narcotics trade.
Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, police director for Eastern Visayas, has directed the regional office of the PNP Internal Affairs Service to investigate the CIDG-8 operation, while Director General Dela Rosa has ordered the CIDG to investigate Espinosa’s killing.
On orders from CIDG headquarters in Quezon City, Supt. Marvin Marcos, chief of CIDG-8, was relieved on Monday.
In a press briefing at PNP headquarters at Camp Crame, Quezon City, on Monday, Deputy Director General Francisco Uyami Jr., the police deputy chief for administration, said there were enough grounds to search Espinosa’s cell.
He said the CIDG-8 team recovered “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) and weapons in the cell of Espinosa and the cell of Yap.
According to Uyami, crime scene investigators found a Super .38 cal. pistol and a small, heat-sealed sachet of shabu in Espinosa’s cell and a caliber .45 Colt Commander pistol, 10 big, heat-sealed sachets of shabu, 27 sachets of dried marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the cell of Yap.
He said the recovered materials were the subjects of two search warrants issued by Judge Tarcelo Sabarre of the Basey, Samar, Regional Trial Court Branch 30.
Uyami played down claims that search warrants were not needed in searching jails, saying there is no law that says a search warrant may not be implemented in a government facility. —WITH REPORTS FROM JAYMEE T. GAMIL; AND JOEY A. GABIETA AND ROBERT DEJON IN LEYTE
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