Pacquiao to CIDG: Why serve Espinosa search warrant in prison?

MANILA, Philippines – The explanation of authorities about a police operation that led to the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr apparently sounded so "unbelievable" to one neophyte senator that it reportedly made his blood pressure shoot up.

Senator Manny Pacquiao on Thursday, November 10, made the comment as he quizzed police officials involved in the operation that led to Espinosa's killing inside his prison cell. (READ: Espinosa death: 3 issues police need to answer)

For the neophyte senator, it does not make sense that members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) served a search warrant on Espinosa, who was already in jail. Other senators also questioned why the police served the warrant at 4 am.

"Kahina-hinala. Sa kulungan – first time, ngayon ko lang narinig 'yan, na kukuha ng search warrant para sa...nakakulong. Anytime, puwede 'nyo kausapin warden doon, ang in charge doon, walang search warrant, kausapin 'nyo. Doon mismo, bulagain 'nyo 'yung kulungan. Puwede naman 'yun ha," Pacquiao said during a Senate inquiry into the death of Espinosa.

(Doubtful. It's the first time I heard that somebody is getting a search warrant for somebody already in prison. Anytime you could talk to the warden or to the one in charge there without any search warrant. Right then and there, conduct a surprise visit.)

"Search warrant is only applicable for those who have the right to privacy…nasa bahay kailangan (you have to be at home). Pero sa kulungan wala ng (But in prison there is no) privacy, they belong to the government property," he explained.

Police Chief Inspector Leo Laraga of the CIDG said they had to seek a search warrant because detention facilities had rejected them in the past.

"Pero kung talagang cooperative po lahat at papasukin lahat, makipagtulungan doon sa facility, wala pong problema. Meron po kaming intel (intelligence) report din po kasi sa kanila," said Laraga, referring to jail warden.

(If they are really cooperative and would let everybody in, there will be no problem. We also have an intel report about them.)

But Homobono Bardillon, provincial jail warden in Leyte, said the police did not coordinate with them.

"'Di po ako nakatanggap ng ganyan ni minsan na galing sa kanila. I was a police officer, too. 'Di po sila nakipagcoordinate (I have never received [any request] from them, I was a police officer too. They don't coordinate with us)," Bardillon said.

Pacquiao, after some more questions, said: "Tumataas na ang blood pressure ko (My blood pressure is shooting up)."

The senator also asked why the police had to ask the provincial jail guards to face the wall.

"Bakit pinatalikod (Why were they asked to face the wall)? [It seems there is] something that you want to hide something,” Pacquiao said.

Laraga, in response, said they had to do so because the jail guards were already "very uncooperative" at that time.

"Delikado po pag nakaharap baka damputin po baril nila (It's dangerous if they don't face the wall, they might grab their guns)," he claimed.

To which, Pacquiao said: "Parang ang hirap paniwalaan ng testimony ninyo. Napakababaw para paniwalaan. Can you imagine parang natatakot magsalita, mga kapwa pulis at pati jail guards."

(It's hard to believe your testimony. It's too shallow to be believable. Can you imagine, it seems they're scared to talk, both police and jail guards.)

On Saturday, November 5, the CIDG was trying 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.

Authorities said a firefight ensued, killing the two inmates.

Prior to the Senate inquiry, senators questioned the circumstances of the incident. Senator Panfilo Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order leading the investigation, had said that Espinosa's death "smells like extrajudicial killing." – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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