Senate to invite Kerwin Espinosa to probe

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is set to invite two relatives of the late Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr to the congressional inquiry into the death of the local official during a police operation inside a prison cell in Leyte.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the committee on public order leading the probe, said the Senate will invite Espinosa's son, Kerwin, an alleged drug lord who is due to be brought back to the Philippines following his arrest in Abu Dhabi. It will also invite the late mayor's brother, Ramon.

According to Lacson, Kerwin might be able to shed light on the motive behind the killing of his father, as well as the protectors of the younger Espinosa in government.

"Liliwanag ang lahat ng ito 'pag dumating si Kerwin Espinosa kasi siya naman 'yung be-all and end-all. Siya 'yung central figure sa usapang ito. Mas mainam talaga siya 'yung masalang nang husto," Lacson told reporters after the 8-hour hearing on Thursday, November 10.

(All this would become clearer once Kerwin Espinosa arrives because he is the be-all and end-all. He is the central figure to this. It would really be better that he be thoroughly grilled here.)

Lacson also heeded the motion of Senator Leila de Lima to invite Mayor Espinosa's brother who was earlier quoted as saying that the mayor told him he was forced to accept the prepared affidavit that listed Kerwin's alleged protectors in government. (READ: Politicians, police, media: Who were named in Espinosa's affidavit?)

The senator, however, is unsure how to bring Kerwin to the Senate, as he faces arrest upon arrival in the country. Lacson said the committee might visit Leyte or wherever he would be detained to conduct the investigation there.

"'Di ko lang alam how kasi pagdating niya ise-serve warrant of arrest sa kanya and then he will be brought before the court, doon sa judge nag-issue ng warrant. Kailangan may leave of court kung maimbita natin," Lacson said.

(I just don't know how because as soon as he arrives here, he would be served an arrest warrant and will be brought before the court, to the judge that issued the warrant. We need to have a leave of court if we would invite him.)

"If not, probably the committee can even go, say, to Leyte to conduct the hearing. With the permission of course ng huwes (of the judge)," he added.

Kerwin is set to be deported to the Philippines from the United Arab Emirates after being nabbed in Abu Dhabi mid-October. Mayor Espinosa earlier surrendered to  police amid allegations that he and his son are involved in the illegal drugs trade. They are part of President Rodrigo Duterte's list of alleged drug lords and drug lord protectors.

On November 5, Saturday, Espinosa was killed inside his jail cell in Baybay City, Leyte, in a reported shootout with personnel from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

Some senators, however, questioned CIDG operatives for serving a search warrant on the late mayor, who was already in prison. They also questioned the timing, as the warrant was served around 4 am in an operation they suspect to be "premeditated." (READ: Leyte cops called SOCO an hour before Espinosa killing)

Lacson has stood by his earlier view that the death of the mayor is an extrajudicial killing.

The committee has not yet set the date for the next hearing. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, 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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