LEYTE - Baybay City Provincial Jail (BCPJ) guards may be conspirators in the illegal drug trade inside the detention facility, an official said, because they refused to let the police inside to serve arrest warrants to Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa and another inmate.
A standoff between jail guards and police took place early Saturday morning before Espinosa and inmate Raul Yap, who allegedly fired at police, were killed, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Northern Leyte Provincial Officer chief inspector Leo Laraga said.
A court issued search warrants for Espinosa and Yap after a witness said that the two were involved in the illegal drug trade inside the BCPJ.
Members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 had to use a bolt cutter to enter the facility as jail guards supposedly "refused to honor the warrant issued by the court," Laraga, who headed the operation, said in an interview on DZMM.
"Lumapit sa amin (jailguard), pinakita namin ang search warrant, binasa niya, pero hindi niya in-honor, bigla kami inalisan," Laraga said.
[A jail guard approached us to receive the search warrant. He read it, but he did not honor it, and suddenly left us.]
Fifteen officials serving the warrant waited for 20 minutes before deciding to use a bolt cutter to open the chained gates, he said.
"Hostile na ang tingin namin sa kanila (jail guards)...Kapag ganun kasi, pag nagtagal, mas lalong lumaki iyong pagdududa namin na baka timbrehan yung target namin sa loob na itago na yung kontrabando," he said.
[We considered them hostile...As time passed, our suspicions grew that they would tell our target to hide the contraband.]
"Akala po namin magkakaputukan kami sa jail. Parang nagkapormahan pero mukang na-overwhelm sila kasi marami kaming naka-high-powered (firearms)," he added.
[We thought we were going to have to deal with a firefight. There was a standoff but they gave in as it looked like they were overwhelmed by our firepower.]
After entering the detention area, the CIDG disarmed the jail guards and asked them to face the wall, Laraga said.
SERVING ESPINOSA'S WARRANT
After the standoff, the CIDG allegedly served the warrants at the same time to Espinosa and Yap, who were in separate cells.
"Yung selda ni mayor, parang abandoned. Napakadilim, parang walang tao," Laraga said.
[The mayor's cell seemed abandoned. It was very dark and there seemed to be no one there.]
"Sa left side, may parang cabinet, andun pala siya (Espinosa) sa gilid. Nung pinitikan namin ng ilaw, bigla niya kaming pinutukan," he added.
[There was a cabinet at the left side of the cell, and Espinosa was beside it. When we turned a light to that spot, he fired at us.]
Laraga said police officials had to shoot back, even if Espinosa only fired a single shot that hit the wall.
Officials have yet to confirm how many bullet wounds were sustained by the self-confessed "narco-politician."
The provincial government is set to probe Espinosa's death, but the hard drive containing the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the incident went missing, Leyte Provincial Administrator Atty. Edgardo Cordeño said in a separate interview.
Espinosa was among the politicians linked by President Rodrigo Duterte to the illegal drug trade.
Espinosa surrendered to police in August after saying that he feared for his life amid the government's intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
His son, Kerwin, who was considered as one of the biggest drug lords in the Visayas was nabbed in Abu Dhabi in October.
Police earlier said the Espinosas kept a log book that contained a list of personalities who allegedly received drug money, including embattled Senator Leila de Lima.