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Albuera police chief: Kerwin Espinosa told pa about cash for Richard Gomez

By: - Bureau Chief / @InquirerSLB
/ 10:01 PM November 10, 2016
Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, chief of the Albuera Municipal Police, who was the first cop to arrest Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and the first to make him name the drug protectors among the police, the local and government officials and judges. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ ROBERT DEJON)

Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, chief of the Albuera Municipal Police, was the first cop to arrest Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and the first to make him name the drug protectors among the police, the local and government officials and judges. (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ ROBERT DEJON)

CEBU CITY — Albuera Police Chief Jovie Espenido said on Thursday, that he was not out to destroy Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez by linking him to the illegal drug trade, on the behest of his political
opponents.

When sought for his comments on news that Gomez has ordered his lawyers to file charges against him, Chief Inspector Espenido said he could not stop Gomez from suing him but he denied that he was after the mayor.

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Espenido said he was merely relying on the testimony of the late Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa Jr. who claimed that Gomez received money from his son, Kerwin, when Gomez was still the chief of staff of his wife, Rep. Lucy Torres of Leyte’s 4th district.

But he didn’t file a case against Gomez because there was no witness who personally saw the mayor receive money from Kerwin, he added.

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Espenido said Mayor Espinosa’s claim was only based on what Kerwin had told him.

The police chief pointed out that if he was out to embarrass Gomez, he could have manufactured a witness who would say that he saw Gomez receiving the money and file a case against the mayor.

“It is so easy to do that (manufacture witness) if I have an intent to go after him,” he said “We (Gomez and I) are not enemies.”

In a phone interview, Espenido said Chief Insp. Leo Laraga, not he, was the one who brought up the name of Gomez during the Senate inquiry called to investigate the death of Mayor Espinosa in an alleged shootout with the Eastern Visayas operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City on Nov. 5. Laraga was the head of the CIDG-8 team that raided Espinosa’s cell and subsequently shot him dead.

He stressed that during the hearing at the Senate, he didn’t hesitate to tell Sen. Leila de Lima to her face that Espinosa had accused her of receiving P8 million from Kerwin because this was the basis of the case they had filed against her.

He said they filed a case against De Lima because several other witnesses could corroborate the claim of the mayor.

In the case of Gomez, Espenido said Mayor Espinosa did not personally see Gomez receiving money from Kerwin but merely heard that story from his son.

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Espenido said Mayor Espinosa named at least more than 90 government and police officials but only half of them were charged because witnesses to corroborate the claims could not be found.

“As he (Gomez) observed, we have not filed a case against him (because) of lack of (solid) evidence,” he said. “We would not file a case if it’s weak.”

“If we can file a case against a senator, we can file a case against a mayor (if there was solid evidence),” he added.

Gomez has ordered his lawyers to file a case against Espenido for linking him to the illegal drugs operation of the Espinosas.

Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

In a Facebook post past 6 p.m., Gomez said he believed that Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera was prevailed upon by Chief Inspector Espenido to link the mayor to the illegal drug trade of his son, Kerwin.

He claimed that Espenido was beholden to his political opponents and had attempted several times to besmirch his name.

“It is unfortunate that he was assigned to Albuera, Leyte, giving him control over the late Mayor Espinosa, whom I am sure he prevailed upon to impute my character and those of other equally innocent officials,” he wrote.

The name of Gomez came up during the Senate inquiry looking into the death of Espinosa while in detention at the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City, Leyte.

Chief Insp. Leo Laraga told the senators that they applied for a search warrant to inspect Mayor Espinosa’s jail cell for illegal drugs and firearms in Samar, not in Leyte, because Espinosa had linked several local officials in Leyte in the illegal drugs trade.

Laraga was the leader of the CIDG-Eastern Visayas group who raided the cells of Espinosa and Yap in the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City, Leyte early morning of Nov. 5.

Gomez, who was in London with his wife, said in a text message to Philippine Daily Inquirer that Laraga was merely quoting Espenido.

In his Facebook post, Gomez said that while controversy was nothing new to him as an actor for more than 30 years, it was the first time that his name was dragged in illegal drugs.

“I initially did not want to dignify this with an answer but given that this is politically motivated and very malicious, I am speaking up,” he added.

Gomez said he had been an anti-drug advocate and had spearheaded a massive anti-drug campaign back in the 90s.

He also ran and won on “very strong anti-drug platform” and had openly supported President Duterte during the 2016 elections due to his strong stance against illegal drugs.

“I am sorry to disappoint my political opponents but I have never been and I will never be involved in drugs and no one can pin me down on an accusation so baseless and ridiculous it is almost laughable,” said Gomez.

“Do not drag me into this circus, I was never part of it. I will never be part of it. I urge the legislators to dig deeper into this. Someone is trying to muddle the issue.”  SFM

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TAGS: Albuera Municipal Police, Albuera municipality, Alex Avisado Jr., congresswomen, Crime, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Drug trafficking, House of Representatives, Illegal drugs, Jovie Espenido, Kerwin Espinosa Jr., law enforcement, Leyte, Leyte Provincial Board, local officials tagged as drug protectors, Lucy Torres-Gomez, Matt Torres, mayor, ormoc city, Richard Gomez, Roland "Kerwin" Espinosa Jr., Rolando Espinosa Sr., shabu
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