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MANILA, Philippines (7th UPDATE) – Rolando Espinosa Sr, the mayor of Albuera, Leyte who was being linked to the drug trade, was killed early Saturday, November 5, inside his jail cell in a reported shootout with personnel from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).
The CIDG was trying to serve a search warrant for Espinosa in connection with illegal possession of firearms inside his cell at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City.
Espinosa and another detainee named Raul Yap, who was also being served a warrant for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, reportedly resisted arrest during the operation, which occurred at around 4 am.
A firefight ensued between the arresting authorities and the two inmates, which resulted in the detainees’ deaths, according to the initial police report.
Crime scene investigators said they recovered one caliber Super .38 and a magazine with live ammunition from Espinosa’s cell, and one caliber .45 and a magazine with live ammunition from Yap’s cell.
They also found one sachet of suspected shabu and drug paraphernalia in Espinosa’s cell.
In Yap’s cell, meanwhile, police found 10 big sachets of shabu; 5 medium sachets of shabu; 27 packs of suspected dried marijuana leaves; and drug paraphernaila.
“As a matter of procedure, this incident will undergo investigation to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident,” the Philippine National Police (PNP) said in a news release.
The CIDG and the Regional Internal Affairs Service 8 will conduct separate probes into the incident.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said he had ordered an investigation of the incident and vowed to punish any police officer found to have committed lapses during the operation, according to an ABS-CBN report.
Dela Rosa, who is in Las Vegas to watch Senator Manny Pacquaio’s fight with WBO welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas, said the investigation would include why a search warrant was about to be served to someone who was already in jail.
Malacañang said the mayor’s death was “unfortunate.”
War on drugs: 3rd mayor in weeks
Espinosa’s death comes after several other mayors linked to the drug war were arrested or killed.
On October 29, Christopher Manigger Cuan, the town mayor of Libungan was arrested and charged after a raid by authorities.
Cuan was arrested by virtue of the 20 search warrants issued by Judge Betoya of Kidapawan City in relation to the reported illegal drugs and high-powered firearms inside the two compounds of Cuan situated in barangay Cabaruyan and Poblacion, respectively, in Libungan town.
On October 28, Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao was killed, along with 9 others, in an alleged shootout with state operatives in Makilala, North Cotabato.
Dimaukom and Espinosa are both in the initial “drug list” released by President Rodrigo Duterte last August 7.
The Albuera mayor was arrested by police last October 4 in connection with violations of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, stemming from a PNP raid on his house that yielded 11 kilos of suspected methamphetamine worth an estimated P88 million, and high-powered weapons.
Espinosa and his son Kerwin were among the first alleged drug personalities named by President Rodrigo Duterte, who ordered them to surrender. Espinosa quickly heeded the call, but Kerwin remained at large until his arrest in Abu Dhabi mid-October. – Jazmin Bonifacio / Rappler.com