Alleged big time drug lord Kerwin Espinosa is set to be extradited from Abu Dhabi to the Philippines Thursday.
Former whistleblower Sandra Cam visited Espinosa on Wednesday in Al Watba jail, where she saw him feeling emotional and in tears.
Cam said Espinosa promised to cooperate and tell everything in exchange for his safety. He also pleaded for the security of his common-law wife and three kids.
Sandra Cam said she received word in October from Filipinos residing in Abu Dhabi that they spotted Espinosa - a fugitive who is considered most wanted in the Philippines, at a convenience store.
Cam frequents Abu Dhabi since she owns a cleaning service and trading firm there.
Cam said in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News that Espinosa stayed in the same building as her employees.
"It so happened na ‘yung building na tinirhan niya, same building nung ibang staff ko. Nakunan siya sa isang convenience store near the building of the Abu Dhabi police. I-tinext sakin sa Pilipinas na nandito si Kerwin, ang druglord. Hindi ako makapaniwala sabi ko i-Viber. Nung Viniber sakin, siya nga. So pumunta ako sa Immigration pinatingnan ko, iyun nga ang lumabas, ang tunay niyang pangalan sa pasaporte," Cam narrated.
(It so happened that his building was the same as my staff’s. His photo was caught in a convenience store near the building of Abu Dhabi police. I received a text message that Espinosa was in Abu Dhabi. At first, I didn’t believe it. I told them to send a photo. When they sent a photo, it was him. I went to Immigration to check if he left the country. There it was, his real name on his passport.)
"That’s the time that I called up (President Duterte's aide) Bong Go to inform the President na iyung druglord na fugitive sa Philippines is here in Abu Dhabi," Cam added.
Authorities were able to confirm Espinosa's presence in Abu Dhabi through the visa he obtained.
Cam said, "Lumipad dito agad operatives natin headed by Colonel Ferro, Colonel Delvo, and Colonel Peralta. It took them sometime, maybe four or five days, bago nila nadakip si Kerwin sa isang convenience store, bumibili ng pagkain. Hindi na siya in-allow na umakyat sa kanyang flat, idiniretso na siya sa CID."
(Filipino operatives flew to Abu Dhabi right away. They were led by Colonel Ferro, Colonel Delvo, and Colonel Peralta. It took them sometime, maybe four or five days, before they were able to arrest Espinosa. He was nabbed while buying food in a convenience store. He was not allowed to return to his flat.)
Most Filipinos residing in Abu Dhabi recognized Espinosa since he was flagged as a wanted fugitive in news reports in the Philippines. He was also known to be friendly and generous.
Cam said, "Very generous siya sa mga Filipinong nakakahalubilo. Bibigyan ng pera, ganun. “
(He was very generous to the Filipinos he met. He gave them money.)
Espinosa resided in one of the flats in a building on Sheikh Khalifa Street in Abu Dhabi, where rent is considered exorbitant.
"Bihira sa mga Filipino ang maka-own ng whole flat. It's very expensive. Three bedroom is 95,000 dirhams a year so more than a million," Cam shared.
(It’s unusual for Filipinos to own an entire flat there. It’s very expensive. Three bedroom is 95,000 dirhams a yeat, so more than a million [in pesos].)
According to authorities, Espinosa left the Philippines in June and initially went to Malaysia, then to Abu Dhabi in a span of five days.
In July, he went to Thailand and then flew to Hong Kong. From Hong Kong, he returned to Abu Dhabi.
When he arrived in Abu Dhabi, Espinosa sought help from his Filipina former girlfriend -- the sister of his right-hand and bodyguard in the Philippines.
"Apparently, one of the closest bodyguards of Kerwin back in the Philippines. Remember may lima or anim siyang mga tao na napatay sa shootout ng allegedly pulis sa Albuera. Ito nakalusot, kasama niya ito ang pinaka-right hand niya nandito ngayon.
(Apparently, one of the closest bodyguards of Espinosa back in the Philippines, the who survived the ambush. He is his most trusted.)
According to Cam, the Filipino community in Abu Dhabi noticed a change in lifestyle of Espinosa’s former girlfriend since she moved to her new flat last August.
Cam said Espinosa asked the ambassador to place him under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
"Being the president of the Whistleblower Association of the Philippines, I came here just for that. Remember, ‘yung mga inmates sa Bilibid, ako din ang nag-legwork dun. I wanted to ask him what kind of protection we can give to him because the President said, he wants him to be alive."
(As president of the Whistleblower Association of the Philippines, I went to Abu Dhabi to ask Espinosa what kind of protection does he need, so we can give it to him. The president said he wants Espinosa alive.)
Cam said it is first important to know the extent of information Espinosa is willing to share.
"That’s why I want to talk to him straightforward, you want protection from our government? You have to tell all… We will protect you," Cam said.
Espinosa's common-law wife and three children are now in Abu Dhabi.
PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group Acting Director Bert Ferro said his group is ready to bring Espinosa back to the Philippines and that they have laid out all security details for his safe return.
PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa said Espinosa will not be brought to Albuera, Leyte in order to ensure his safety.
“Hindi nga natin dadalhin doon sa Albuera para less ang risk. Hindi nga natin present sa court sa Albuera. Kausapin lang court doon para return warrant doon. Nandito na sa amin tapos pabisitahin pa natin. He holds the key to the future of others involved in the illegal drug trade.” Dela Rosa said.
(We will no longer bring him to Albuera, Leyte. Less risk. We will no longer present him to the local court there. He holds the key to the future of others involved in the illegal drug trade.)