5 Albuera, Leyte villages tagged poll hotspots
TACLOBAN CITY – Five villages in the hometown of self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa in Albuera town, Leyte province, have been identified as possible hotspots for the May 14 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
One of these villages is Binolho, where the Espinosas own two houses and where Kerwin and his father, slain Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., used to live.
The four other villages are Tinag-an, Balugo, Mahayahay, Sherwood.
“These barangays were identified due to intense political rivalries during past elections and because we have monitored presence of (individuals) who were identified with the Espinosas,” said Senior Insp. Ronald Espina, town police chief, in a phone interview.
The town police chief, whose coverage area involves 16 villages of Albuera, said they had yet to find out if there were candidates for this May 14 barangay and SK polls who were close to the Espinosas.
“The right of suffrage and to run is a constitutional right. We cannot stop them to run or to vote because the Philippine National Police is an apolitical organization. We don’t engage in any politically related activity like supporting a particular candidate to the disadvantage of another candidate,” Espina said.
It would be up to the voters to decide whom to elect, he added.
President Duterte earlier raised the possibility that there might be candidates in the May polls who were involved in illegal drugs.
Senior Inspector Espina assured the public that the illegal drugs activity in Albuera had slowly become “manageable.”
The police were just waiting for a certification from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for the town to be declared drug-cleared, he said.
Of the 16 Albuera villages, 12 were into illegal drugs trade.
About 275 drug users surrendered under the government’s Oplan Tokhang, the police campaign that asked the drug personalities to surrender.
“And these 12 barangays are already drug-cleared because of our operations and we have to give credit to our former police chief, Chief Inspector (Jovie) Espenido who really played a major role on this campaign,” said Espina, who assumed the post last January.
It was under the leadership of Espenido that Mayor Espinosa surrendered to the police and owned up his son’s involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
But the mayor was killed inside his cell at the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City on November 5, 2016.
Kerwin has been detained at PNP’s Camp Crame following his arrest in Abu Dhabi in October 2016./lb
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