Espenido: If Espinosa is released, I would be free to hunt him down
DAVAO CITY — Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido is happy that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has dismissed the criminal charges against high-profile drug kingpin Kerwin Espinosa.
“If he would be released, I would be free to hunt him down,” the Ozamiz City police chief told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Asked why, Espenido replied: “His drug dealings continue.”
The information about Espinosa’s drug operation is “101 percent” validated, he said.
Espinosa’s siblings are the ones running it in his absence, he added.
“A few months after he surrendered, his siblings continued the illegal activities,” he said. “Kerwin is [held] at the National Bureau of Investigation but he has a cell phone. He just makes calls.”
Espenido challenged the media to send reporters to Albuera, the suspected drug lord’s hometown in Leyte province, to verify his claim.
Espenido was the police chief of Albuera in 2016 when he filed drug and weapon charges against Espinosa after a raid on the latter’s home that netted “shabu” (crystal meth) and firearms.
Espinosa disowned the drugs and firearms when he testified in a Senate inquiry into the killing of his father, Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., during a police raid on his cell at a Leyte subprovincial jail on Nov. 5, 2016.
But Espinosa admitted to the Senate that he was a drug lord, Espenido said.
He said the drug-trafficking case against Espinosa and several other suspects that the DOJ dismissed last December—a development the press learned about only on Monday—had been brought by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
The charges brought by the Albuera police against Espinosa are still being heard by Branches 20 and 25 of the Manila Regional Trial Court, he said.
“We have already attended three hearings. But lately, the hearings had been postponed,” he said.
Espenido said he had yet to see the DOJ resolution, but he added that he believed the evidence submitted by the CIDG was insufficient to pin Espinosa and the others.
Even so the cases he brought against the alleged Eastern Visayas drug kingpin are strong, he said.
Admission in Senate
“Kerwin made a public admission [of] his being a drug lord at the Senate. His right-hand man, (Marcelo) Adorco, is our vital witness. He accompanied Kerwin in the drug deals in Hong Kong and Thailand. I think he was not able to testify in the [CIDG case],” Espenido said.
Espinosa remains influential because he has money, Espenido said.
That he can hire the best lawyers also proves that he has money, he added.
“His lawyer now is (Raymond) Fortun. Why is it that he has high-caliber lawyers? Why is it that a lot of lawyers want to handle his case? He cannot do that if he has no money,” Espenido said.
He noted that Espinosa was admitted into the government witness protection program (WPP), but Adorco was not.
‘Most vital witness’
“That’s what we are afraid of. Adorco is our most vital witness. We petitioned for his inclusion in the WPP as soon as he was apprehended, but he has not been admitted so far, while Kerwin is under WPP. Why is that? Adorco remains in jail, where the [danger to his life] is high,” Espenido said.
He said he had asked the judges handling the cases against Espinosa to place Adorco in his custody but the judges had yet to make a decision.
“I’d like to bring him with me [to Ozamiz]. I don’t want him killed in jail,” he said, adding that two prosecution witnesses against Espinosa had been killed.
Espenido said the dismissal of the charges against Espinosa in the CIDG case was demoralizing.
At the same time, however, he is glad, he said.
“He should be acquitted so that we will meet outside,” he added.