Albuera police chief accused of coddling drug suspect

MANILA, Philippines – A Leyte-based journalist has filed a complaint against the police chief in Albuera, Leyte, for supposedly coddling a drug distributor linked to Kerwin Espinosa, one of the biggest illegal drug operators in Eastern Visayas.

In her complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, November 7, Lalaine Jimenea, chief editor of the Eastern Visayas Mail, accused Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido of grave misconduct and grave abuse of authority.

She also said Espenido violated a provision of Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act that makes it unlawful for anyone to wilfully shield or protect violators of the anti-illegal drugs law. 

In the complaint, Jimenea recounted how Max Miro – supposedly Espinosa's trusted drug distributor – surrendered to the respondent on September 23, 2016, and turned over 3 kilos of shabu with an estimated value of P30 million.

But instead of submitting the confiscated drugs to the laboratory within 24 hours, Espenido allegedly withheld the submission for 3 days. This, Jimenea said, "already cast doubt on the integrity of the evidence."

Section 21 of RA 9165 states that illegal drugs should be submitted to the forensic laboratory within 24 hours from confiscation for qualitative and quantitative examination.

Jimenea also accused Espenido of acting as a prosecutor or judge by not filing a case against Miro.

When Miro turned over the shabu to authorities in September, Espenido had said then that information provided by Miro would be used to support cases to be filed against the alleged protectors of Kerwin in government and in the police force.

"While other drug personalities are placed behind bars or buried 6 feet under the ground, Max Miro, a trusted drug pusher of Kerwin Espinosa and apparently a favored suspect of the respondent, enjoyed free life under the protection of the latter," the complaint read.

Jimenea argued that the respondent's acts constitued grave misconduct and grave abuse of authority.

She sought the respondent's dismissal from service and asked the Ombudsman to issue a preventive suspension pending an investigation against Espenido.

Meanwhile, Jimenea herself has been linked to the illegal drug trade, a claim she denies. Espenido earlier filed a complaint against Jimenea and 6 others, including Senator Leila de Lima, for supposedly receiving payoffs from Espinosa.

That complaint was based on the affidavit executed by Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr, Kerwin's father, who was killed on November 5 inside his jail cell in a reported shootout with members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Eastern Visayas. –