MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A police official who headed the operation that led to the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr inside his own jail cell claimed that actor and Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez is linked to the “Espinosa drug group.”
Police Chief Inspector Leo Laraga made the claim at a Senate inquiry into Espinosa’s death as he defended the decision to apply for a search warrant in a Samar court instead of Leyte – a question posed by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
“‘Yung compelling reason po natin is tungkol po doon sa mga personality na involved doon po sa Espinosa drug group. Mismo galing din po ito kay late mayor Espinosa, your honor,” Laraga said.
(Our compelling reason are the personalities involved in the Espinosa drug group. These [names] came directly from the late mayor Espinosa himself, your honor.)
Initially hesitant to divulge names, Laraga said those allegedly involved are Gomez, Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, Baybay City Vice Mayor Michael Cari, and Leyte 3rd District Representative Ching Veloso.
Gomez, however, was not included in Espinosa’s affidavit that he had executed before the Albuera police. (READ: Politicians, police, media: Who were named in Espinosa’s affidavit?)
“That was the statement of Mayor Espinosa himself, I believe,” Laraga said.
“I also remembered that I heard it from Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido during the case conference doon sa bulwagan (in the conference hall). Sinabi niya rin po ‘yun. Sinabi niya mga pangalan na sinabi ko na binanggit ni Mayor (He also said that. He mentioned the names that I said were mentioned by the Mayor),“ he added.
‘Ridiculous and laughable’
Asked to comment on the allegation, Gomez said in a text reply to Rappler: “That is ridiculous and outright laughable. I will not even dignify that with an answer. Huwag nila ako isama sa circus nila (They shouldn’t drag me into their circus).”
Of the Espinosas, he said: “I dont know them and their political leanings. I have never met them and have never spoken to them.”
Petilla has denied the allegation as well, saying he has no links with the Espinosas and illegal drugs. (READ: Leyte governor: No links to Espinosas, illegal drugs)
Veloso also denied any involvement in the illegal drug trade. In a Facebook post on Sunday, November 6, the former Court of Appeals associate justice addressed his inclusion in the affidavit of the mayor, who had tagged him as a “protector” of the mayor’s son, alleged drug lord Kerwin.
On Saturday, November 5, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) tried to serve a search warrant on Espinosa in connection with illegal possession of firearms inside his cell at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City.
Espinosa and another detainee, 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.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Thursday ordered the relief of 24 policemen involved in the operation. – Rappler.com