Relatives of drug suspect Espinosa to PNP: Spare us

Ryan Macasero
Relatives of drug suspect Espinosa to PNP: Spare us
While they have no drug links, relatives of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr in Cebu fear they may end up as casualties in the government's war against drugs, just by mere association with the suspects

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Before he was the mayor of Albuera town in Leyte, Rolando Espinosa Sr was born and raised in Cebu City.

While Rolando beat the 24-hour surrender deadline of President Rodrigo Duterte for the mayor’s alleged involvement in the drug trade, his son, Kerwin has gone into hiding. The younger Espinosa had not been seen since Duterte, who ran on an anti-crime campaign platform, won the presidency.

Reporters on Wednesday trooped to the Espinosas’ humble ancestral home in Cebu in a bid to check if Kerwin had been around. They got there from the main road through a zigzag trek through a maze of homes built from scrap wood and metal.

“He (Kerwin) hasn’t been here for years,” a neighbor told reporters who waited outside the home.

While the house would be an ideal hiding place for the alleged drug lord, Rolando’s sister-in-law, who spoke on the condition that she not be named nor recorded on video, said they were not hiding him.

“Why would I hide him?” she said, but added that  the family would not pressure Kerwin to turn himself in. “It should be out of his own free will,” she added.

Due process

Rolando’s sister-in-law hopes that the mayor and his son would be given due process. But with the rise in killings of drug suspects by either vigilantes or in police operations, she said she knows not to be too hopeful.

Ila man ang gobyerno (The government is theirs),” she said, referring to the new administration.

She also said that while she hasn’t received direct threats, she fears for her own life. “Panawagon mi ninyo, kami mga paryente. Unsa’y imong mahimo kung apilon mi (You call us, their relatives. What would you get out of getting us too?)” she asked.

She said she feared that they would be dragged into the violent campaign against drugs. “Even here in our own neighborhood, there were two who were shot, even in their own homes,” she said in Bisaya.

She hopes that it would not happen to her family. “Akong concern lang. Kung sa’ ni Juan, bayran ni Pedro (I have a concern. If it’s Juan’s fault, should Pedro pay for it)?”

That morning, 6 people linked to Espinosa were killed in a shootout with Leyte police


CEBU HOME. This is the family home of Albuera Mayor Rolando Sr in Cebu. Photo by Ryan Macasero/Rappler

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña had also warned drug lords in Cebu City to get out. Osmeña offered a P50,000-reward for police officers who kill drug lords in the line of duty.

Cebu police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Region 7 police are on alert that Espinosa might be hiding somewhere in Cebu.

“He used to operate here, before business started booming in Leyte,” PDEA Region 7 chief Yogi Filemon Ruiz said in Cebuano.

PDEA linked Espinosa to suspected drug lord Jeffrey”‘Jaguar” Diaz, who was killed in a police operation in June.

Ruiz said that Espinosa should be considered armed and dangerous. The order is to “shoot on sight” if Espinosa puts up a fight. (READ: Shoot on sight? ‘Di na dapat ‘yan, di na uso ‘yan’ – De Lima–

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.