MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Kerwin Espinosa, alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord, claimed on Wednesday, November 23, that in the week leading to the May 2016 elections, a police officer who later mounted an operation that led to his father’s death, solicited P3 million to fund the campaign of his wife.
Espinosa, the key witness in the continuation of the Senate's probe into the death of his father, the late Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr, said "Colonel Marcos" reached out to him through a certain "Major Abordo."
Abordo, he said, contacted him to say that Marcos needed money supposedly to fund over 100 police deployed to secure the town during the 2016 elections.
"Noong nag-usap kami ay sinabi niya na magtulungan kami. Sa huli ay nagdiretsuhan kami na kailangan niya ang tulong ko dahil iyong asawa niya ay tumatakbo bilang vice mayor ng Pastrana at kulang siya ng funding o pera. Sabi niya ay kailangan daw ng 3 million pesos kasi 2.5 million pesos pa lang ang makakaya ko at nagkasundo naman kami," Espinosa said in an affidavit that he executed before the Philippine National Police (PNP).
(When he spoke, he said we should help each other. In the end, it was made clear that he needed my help because his wife was running for vice mayor of Pastrana and he was short on funding. He said he needed P3 million but I could only afford P2.5 million, and we eventually reached an agreement.)
In exchange for the cash, Espinosa said, Marcos promised to tell them ahead of time about the deployment and location of checkpoints in the area.
"Colonel Marcos" or Superintendent Marvin Marcos was the police official who led an operation to serve a search warrant against the late Albuera mayor inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City, Leyte. Marcos, who used to head the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 9, was at the operation itself but did not enter the jail.
Marcos' deputy, Chief Inspector Leo Laraga, was the one who led the actual operation inside the Baybay jail. It was Laraga who shot Mayor Espinosa, supposedly because the latter shot police first. Senators have called the operation a "clear case of extrajudicial killing."
In his testimony, Espinosa also revealed that he gave protection money to retired police general and now Daanbantayan mayor Vicente Loot of Cebu, and Laraga. He alleged that he paid off police officers to protect his drug distribution business in Leyte.
He said that sometime in late 2011, the late drug lord Jeffrey "Jaguar" Diaz told him that he should pay off Loot, who was then deputy regional director for administration of Police Regional Office 8 (PRO-8), to protect his business.
Espinosa said a police officer who introduced himself as Laraga called him. "Itong Leo Laraga tumawag sa akin sinabi niya sa akin na inutusan daw siya ni General Vicente Loot na kausapin ako (This Leo Laraga called me and said he was ordered by General Vicente Loot to talk to me)."
He alleged that following that phone conversation, he agreed to give Loot, through Laraga, P100,000 monthly, while the other police officer reportedly received P20,000 monthly. One of his men would hand the payment to Laraga, he said.
Espinosa said he never met or talked to Loot, and only transacted with Laraga, He also said the monthly payment to Loot stopped when Loot was assigned to the training center in Camp Crame.
Laraga led the police team that was serving a search warrant on Mayor Espinosa at his jail cell in Baybay City on November 5.
Espinosa also alleged that there were police officers who dealt drugs, among them Police Chief Inspector Wilfredo Abordo of CIDG-PRO8.
Question of credibility
Police officers who were implicated by Espinosa took turns denying allegations that they received protection money from the alleged drug lord.
On allegations that he tried to ask for P3 million for his wife's vice mayoral bid, Marcos said he had been separated from his wife since 2013. He also said that it was his team which had filed cases against Espinosa, which was the basis for his arrest in Abu Dhabi.
Laraga, for his part, said that Espinosa's testimony is "half truth and half lies," and that the "lies" applied to the allegations against him and other police officers.
Espinosa is a key resource person of the Senate committee on dangerous drugs and public order as well as the committee on justice and human rights, which are jointly conducting the inquiry. (READ: Senate probe: What secrets will Kerwin Espinosa spill?)