Drugs a 'family business' of Espinosas, claims police chief

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2016 09:37 AM

Mayor's son linked to Cebu's top drug lord

MANILA - The clan of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. runs a "family business" of drug trafficking, his town's police chief claimed Thursday.

Albuera police chief Insp. Jovie Espenido said the Espinosas' illegal enterprise is common knowledge at the police Intelligence Division of Eastern Visayas, where he had previously served.

"Alam na alam kung sino talaga iyang pamilya [Espinosa]. That is a family business of Espinosa, iyung illegal drugs," he said in a DZMM interview.

Espenido, who started heading the Albuera police last July 18, said he also received reports that Espinosa and his alleged drug lord son, Kerwin, used hired thugs to intimidate residents and political rivals during the election period.

"Maraming balita talaga. Maski bata, matanda, sino-sino, alam nila before and after the election kung sino si Espinosa, gaano ka-tindi si Espinosa, iyung grupo nilang mag-ama," he said.

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NO GUNS, NO GLORY

He added that employing private armed groups to "kill and threaten" citizens is a common practice among politicians in Eastern Visayas.

"Dito sa Region 8, iyun talaga ang mas tsansa sa pulitiko kung papatay at mananakot ng tao. Mostly dito sa Samar at area sa Leyte, itong Albuera, ginagamit talaga nila ang pwersa nila para sa susunod hindi na magbigay ng pera, kasi takot na," he said.

Espinosa surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday, meeting a 24-hour deadline set by Presidente Duterte, who accused him of coddling drug rings.

The mayor later admitted that his son, Kerwin, is a top narcotics trafficker in Eastern Visayas. The younger Espinosa remains at-large and has reportedly left the country last June 21.

The mayor, however, denied that he is a narco-politician. He said his past electoral run was funded by relatives from the US.

On Wednesday, six alleged members of the "Espinosa group" were killed during a police operation at a residential compound of the mayor in Barangay Binulho, Albuera.

Police are still investigating the identities of the six men, but Espinido said the suspects were hitmen, according to their five cohorts who were arrested in an earlier buy-bust operation.

"Itinuturo talaga sila nung mga dating nahuli natin -- mga pangalan, alyas, gaano ka-tindi itong mga tao na itong involved sa mga patayan before and after election natin," he said.

He said the suspects were hired by Kerwin from Zamboanga, Cebu and other adjoining provinces.

KERWIN AND JAGUAR

Espinido added that Kerwin, also known as "Boss K", would often exchange hired men with the late Jeffrey "Jaguar" Diaz, a suspected drug lord in Cebu.

"Magkuha lang iyun (Kerwin) ng for hired from Cebu, from Bohol, kuhanin nun pati pera. Pagkatapos iyung tauhan niya rito, kuhanin ni Jaguar, magtrabaho doon sa Bohol, sa Osamis," he said.

Diaz was killed in a shootout in his safehouse in Las Piñas last June.

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But Espinido has doubts that the man slain in the encounter was really Diaz.

"May information iyung tao na iyun ang best friend ni Jaguar, pero hindi iyun si Jaguar," he said.

The official said he has asked the Philippine National Police higher-ups to look into this claim.