Drug war: 6 mayor’s men die in Leyte

TACLOBAN CITY—Six men working for Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. were killed in a shootout with police outside the mayor’s house, the Leyte Provincial Police Office said Wednesday.

The encounter took place at 5:30 a.m. at Sitio Tinago, Barangay Binulho, Albuera, Leyte, inside the compound of the Espinosa residence, said Senior Supt. Franco Simborio.

TO DIE FOR.  Mayor Rolando Espinosa arrives at the CIDG office in Camp Crame to face investigation on his alleged drug-dealing activities while six of his  men guarding the family compound  lie dead a few hours earlier after  a shootout with  Leyte policemen. Mel Caspe and Lino Santos

Police seized 13 high-powered firearms and four .45 caliber pistols after the shootout.

“The situation is still dangerous because the mayor’s men might still be lurking around the area,” Simborio told the Manila Standard in Filipino. “According to our men on the ground, the mayor has about 50 men who are still be hunted.”

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier called on the mayor and his son Kerwin to surrender or be shot dead.

Duterte issued the warning after Espinosa’s two bodyguards and three employees were arrested in a buy-bust operation that netted P1.9 million worth of shabu.

Mayor Espinosa surrendered Tuesday after being linked to the illegal drug trade.

Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa said Espinos was on Duterte’s list of local officials who protect the illegal drug trade.

Espinosa’s son, Kerwin, is still at large and is wanted on illegal drug charges.

Dela Rosa said Kerwin, whom he identified as the “No. 1 drug lord in Eastern Visayas,” to surrender “or he will really be killed.”

The younger Espinosa is said to have flown to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on June 21, more than two weeks before Duterte assumed the presidency.

A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department, Charles Jose, said his passport had not been canceled and that he was free to travel because no court has ordered the documents revoked.

“Only the courts can instruct the DFA to cancel a Philippine passport. There must be a case first,” Jose said in a text message.

The Bureau of Immigration said that Espinosa was allowed to leave the country since there was no court order to include him on the bureau’s hold departure list.

The mayor, in police custody, has admitted having knowledge of his son’s illegal drug activities.

Hundreds of suspected drug users and pushers have been killed in an aggressive nationwide anti-drug campaign since Duterte took power with a pledge to wipe out lawlessness.

The rising body count has alarmed human rights groups, which called on the United Nations to condemn Duterte’s anti-crime policies.

Dela Rosa, in a live news conference with Espinosa, addressed the mayor’s son directly. 

“If you’re listening now Kerwin, your father has already surrendered so you should follow your father,” he said. 

“If you don’t surrender you will die so better surrender because your life is really in danger.”

The mayor was the second high-profile drug suspect to turn himself in after being accused of drugs-related crimes by Duterte.

Last month, in a meeting also aired on national television, the President told a businessman he would “finish [him] off” unless he stopped dealing in drugs. The businessman denied the allegations.

Police said more than 100,000 other people have also surrendered to the local authorities and pledged to stop using illegal drugs.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief, said he sees the eradication of illegal drugs if the administration maintains its momentum.

“At the rate our law enforcement agencies are going in their anti-drugs operations, a drug-free Philippines has now become a possibility,” Lacson said in a text message sent to reporters.

But Lacson said the growing number of vigilante killings was alarming.

“I implore the PNP to conduct appropriate investigations in relation to these killings. Certainly, the more than 200 cases of salvaging and summary executions by vigilantes in a period of one month alone should alarm our citizenry,” Lacson said.

He said the police must show that they are not tolerating the vigilantes by building up the evidence against them so they can be charged in court.

Lacson also said the police “should be presumed to be performing their duties with regularity and should not be unduly accused of violating due process without basis.”

The Senate committee on justice headed by Senator Leila de Lima will investigate the spate of killings involving alleged drug pushers and users. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, Vito Barcelo, PNA

Topics: Drug war , illegal drugs , PNP , drug lords , drug pushers , drug users
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