IT WAS MURDER
Sen. Richard Gordon to recommend the filing of appropriate charges against policemen involved in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
Without a doubt, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera town in Leyte was killed to silence him, and the policemen involved should face criminal charges.
This was the position taken by Sen. Richard Gordon amid an ongoing Senate investigation into the death of the 54-year-old local chief executive inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City, Leyte last Nov. 5.
“The circumstances surrounding his death indicate the hallmark of a premeditated murder. He was clearly assassinated,” he said in an interview shortly before he led the inauguration of a blood station at the Philippine Red Cross compound in Mandaue City on Saturday.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Justice and Human Rights, said he would recommend to the other members of the joint committees that appropriate charges be filed against the policemen involved in the operation that resulted to the death of Espinosa.
The joint investigation into Espinosa’s death is being conducted by Gordon’s committee and that of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. The members of Lacson’s committee are Senators Gringo Honasan, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima, Manny Pacquiao, Grace Poe, Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Antonio Trillanes. Gordon’s committee members are Senators Miguel Zubiri, Peter Alan Cayetano, Francis Pangilinan, Pacquiao, Poe, De Lima and Trillanes. The two committees have three ex officio members: Senators Franklin Drilon, Vicente Sotto III, and Ralph Recto.
According to Gordon, he believed that some of those involved in the police operation that resulted in the death of Espinosa were not comfortable if the mayor remained alive.
“We don’t know yet who ordered the murder of Mayor Espinosa. But I am sure some of those involved in the operation felt they were in danger (if Espinosa was alive),” he said.
Espinosa had earlier issued an affidavit naming at least 200 persons — politicians, policemen and even media practitioners — who allegedly received payola from his son Kerwin, who was tagged as the biggest drug lord in Eastern Visayas.
A total of 24 policemen took part in the dawn operation to serve a search warrant that led to the killing of Espinosa.
Last Thursday, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa ordered the immediate relief of the 18 personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Eastern Visayas (CIDG-8) and six of the Regional Maritime Unit (RMU-8) involved in the jail operation.
CIDG-8 regional director Chief Supt. Marvin Marcos, appearing before the Senate, maintained that the operation was legitimate and that Espinosa was killed because he allegedly tried to shoot it out with policemen who were going to search his cell for alleged drug stash.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday said he believed the police version of the events leading to the killing of Espinosa in jail. But he qualified his statement, saying that if there are evidence to prove that Espinosa was intentionally killed, then a case should be filed against the police.
Just for morale
But Gordon surmised that the pronouncements of President Duterte were not meant to tolerate what appeared to be a case of extrajudicial killing but simply trying to boost the morale of the policemen.
“Knowing President Duterte, it’s as if he was acting like a mayor here. He uttered those words so that the police won’t feel so bad. But he will do what is right,” he said.
“From the start, he (President Duterte) already instructed the police to go after drug personalities but to do it properly and within the bounds of law,” he added.
The Senate investigations on Espinosa’s death, Gordon said, are not only intended to craft legislations but also to recommend the filing of cases against the persons who had a hand in Espinosa’s slay based on the evidence that are presented during the inquiries.
“We are zeroing in on the defects and infractions made by the police, and we would later on make some recommendations,” the senator said.
Espinosa and another inmate Raul Yap were killed in what the CIDG said was a shootout when they served search warrants for firearms and illegal drugs inside the jail past 4 a.m. last Nov. 5.
Gordon said it was absurd to secure a search warrant for an operation inside a government-owned jail facility and to implement it at dawn.
“Imagine they barged into the detention cell past 4 a.m. and told the (policemen tasked to secure Espinosa) to kneel down and not to look at the raiding team. Then they start the fire fight. I don’t think those people (Espinosa and another jail inmate Raul Yap) had weapons by the looks of it,” he said.
Gordon said the team from the CIDG-8 also violated protocol when they did not coordinate with the warden of the Baybay City Sub-Provincial Jail.
Moreover, he said, the search warrant was issued by Judge Tarcelo Sabarre Jr. of the Regional Trial Court Branch 30 in Basey, Samar six days before the CIDG operatives raided the jail.
“The warrant was six-days old already. Why didn’t they just go to the jail warden and implement it at day time? They should have done that. And hey, why didn’t they coordinate with the warden?” he said.
Gordon likewise noted that the order of events proved that the CIDG team had planned to kill Espinosa inside the jail.
“They made a mistake of calling Soco (Scene of the Crime Operatives) at 3:49 a.m. when the incident happened at about 4:30 a.m. Kulang na lang dinala na nila ang punerarya doon bago nila pinatay (It seemed they would have even brought the funeral parlor with them if they could),” he said.
Based on the report of the Provincial Internal Affairs Service in Leyte, the CIDG-8 team led by Chief Insp. Leo Laraga arrived at the facility about 3:20 a.m. last Saturday.
When one of the jail guards was about to open the gate, the CIDG-8 team barged in and ordered them and the four provincial policemen tasked to secure Espinosa to kneel and face the wall.
They were also disarmed while the raiding team went to cells number 1 and 7 where Espinosa and Yap were jailed.
The five co-inmates of Yap were reportedly told to transfer to another cell, leaving Yap alone with the policemen. They later heard gunshots.
Inmates in cell number 2, which was adjacent to the cell where Espinosa was detained, were also told to transfer to another cell.
They said they saw two armed men go inside Espinosa’s cell and talk to the mayor. Then they heard gunshots.
The provincial police said the Soco team arrived at 7 a.m. but was only allowed to get inside the crime scene three hours later.
Provincial Jail Warden Homobono Bardillon told investigators that their Network Video Recorder for the 16 channels of their CCTV and two unit switches were taken by the CIDG personnel before they left the facility.
“This is really bad. We should not tolerate it,” Gordon said.
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