THE Supreme Court will investigate the issuance of search warrants issued by a Samar court that resulted in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside his cell at a Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City on Nov. 5.
A police raiding team said they tried to served the warrants, issued by Judge Tarcelo Sabarre Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 in Basey, Samar, at dawn, but Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap opened fire on them, leading them to fire back and kill the two prisoners.
“The Supreme Court has ordered an investigation into the circumstances relative to the purported issuance of the search warrant… that led to the death in custody of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa,” Court spokesman Theodore Te said Tuesday in a media briefing.
He said the Court would prepare guidelines for the investigation, which was initiated during the session Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, the Philippine National Police said it would secure an affidavit from Espinosa’s son Kerwin, said to be the top drug lord in Eastern Visayas, before he is brought back to the country from the United Arab Emirates where he was arrested.
“We will follow the laws of UAE… we just cannot get an affidavit in jail or any other location. The only way that we could get his confession… is through the Philippine Embassy at Abu Dhabi,” said Senior Supt. Alberto Ferro, director of the Anti-Illegal Drugs Group.
Ferro said he would bring the younger Espinosa back to the country amid fears that he, too, like his father, would be killed.
“I will personally bring him safely here so that he can shed light on illegal drug transactions that involve politicians and high-ranking police officials,” he said in Filipino.
The younger Espinosa is detained at the Al Whatba District Jail in Abu Dhabi.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier tagged Espinosa as one of the top leaders of the illegal drug business operating in the Visayas.
Also on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno identified the 19 operatives in the police raid that killed Espinosa and Yap inside the Leyte jail.
The police—13 from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group from Region 8—are being investigated by the PNP Internal Affairs Service.
“We welcome the investigations being conducted by other agencies and bodies because more than anyone else, we want to get to the bottom of this incident so we can carry out the necessary actions,” Sueno said in a statement.
The 13 CIDG-Region 8 personnel who are now under probe are: P/Supt. Santi Noel G. Matira, Designated Supervisor; P/Chief Insp. Leo D. Laraga, Team Leader; PSInsp. Deogracias Diaz III, Assistant Team Leader; P/SInsp. Fritz Blanco, Asst. Team Leader; SPO4 Juanito Duarte; SPO4 Melvin Cayobit; SPO2 Benjamin Dacallos; SPO2 Alphinor Serrano Jr.; PO3 Jhonny Ibanez; PO3 Norman Abellanosa; PO1 Bernard Orpilla; PO1 Lloyd Ortiguesa; and PO1 Jerlan Cabiyaan.
The six members of the Regional Maritime Unit of Region 8 (RMU-8) who are being investigated for their participation as support members of the operations team are: P/Chief Insp. Calixto C. Canillas, Team Leader; P/SInsp. Lucrecito A. Candilosas, Asst. Team Leader; SPO2 Antonio R. Docil; SPO1 Mark Christian C. Cadilo; PO2 Jhon Ruel Ducolan; and PO2 Jaime P. Bacsal.
Sueno said that they are also looking at why the Maritime Group would be involved in such an operation.
Sueno promised a thorough investigation and ruled out a whitewash.
IAS chief Leo Angelo Leuterio also assured the public of an impartial investigation.
Barely a month before the killing of Espinosa, the town mayor had executed an affidavit, naming high-ranking government officials in his ledger as either alleged protectors or takers in the illegal drug trade in Eastern Visayas.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order committee, said he will invite to his panel’s investigation on Thursday the relieved officials of the CIDG in Eastern Visayas to shed light on the killing of Espinosa.
Interviewed over radio dzBB, Lacson said among those who will be invited were CIDG Regional Director Superintendent Marvin Marcos and Chief Inspector Leo Laraga, leader of the CIDG team that killed Espinosa.
He said Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla will also be invited to the hearing as the provincial jail where Espinosa was killed is under his jurisdiction.
“We know that the provincial jail is under the provincial governor. That is one aspect of legislation which is chaotic–the control of our jails,” Lacson said.
Lacson said the Espinosa slay was a case of extrajudicial killing.
“As far as I’m concerned, this was an EJK,” Lacson said. “But of course we have to hear the side of the PNP and those involved here.”
Lacson said if the policemen can convince them , the senators might change their minds about what happened in the Baybay City jail.
Aside from Espinosa, Laraga’s team also killed drug suspect Raul Yap.
Laraga said Espinosa fired at his team first, triggering a shootout.
Reacting to reports that the hard drive of the CCTV camera went missing, Lacson said he hopes somebody witnessed what happened.
“It cannot be denied that the hard drive was missing. It could have helped and be used as a defense of the CIDG that there was no EJK or summary execution in the case of Mayor Espinosa,” Lacson said.
In the House, opposition lawmakers sought a congressional probe into the death of Espinosa while under police custody in his jail cell in Baybay, Leyte.
Reps. Teddy Brawner Baguilat of Ifugao and Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list cited irregularities in the police raid that led to Espinosa’s death.
Baguilat said there is a need to look into how Espinosa could have resisted any form of police action in a facility already controlled by the police and how he could have obtained a gun while in jail.
“This is not to indict the entire PNP but to find out if there is a cover-up of Espinosa’s supposed links to other top officials,” Baguilat said, “Also, it is really poor jail management if an inmate can get hold of a gun while incarcerated.”
Alejano, a former soldier, added: “The PNP’s credibility is severely tarnished by police operations conducted under highly suspicious circumstances.”
Espinosa became the second mayor on President Duterte’s list of alleged narco-politicians to be killed in the war on drugs.
Earlier, Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao was killed in a clash with anti-drug police.
Baguilat reiterated his support for the anti-drug campaign, but said there was a need to follow set procedures and rules. Consistent failure to follow the rules will ultimately lead to anarchy, he said.
“Early on in the President’s war on drugs, I called for an investigation on extrajudicial killings, partly to find out if our police had the proper equipment and discipline to carry on the anti-drug campaign, but I was stonewalled by the majority,” Baguilat said.
“These increasingly frequent drug-related deaths give the impression that our police are inept, like Keystone cops who always bungle the case. This may not be the case, but if our police need technical support, then we should give them that, and inquiries like the one I’m calling for will help us find out how we can help our police. I hope the majority will not squander another opportunity to really help in the anti-drug campaign,” Baguilat said. With John Paolo Bencito and Francisco Tuyay