Element of surprise: CIDG-8 defends predawn search of Espinosa's cell

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 07 2016 01:40 PM | Updated as of Nov 07 2016 05:22 PM

KILLED BEFORE DAWN: Why did operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 conduct a search of Albuera town mayor Roland Espinosa's jail cell at 4 am? According to the CIDG-8 chief, the predawn search was done to maintain an element of surprise.

"Isa po sa factor ng strategy ng police operation is the element of surprise. Kapag inanunsyo mo pong magse-search ka ng isang bahay, 90 porsyento po na iyung hinahanap mong nakasaad sa search warrant na ginagawang iligal ay hindi na po aabutan," CIDG Region 8 chief Marvin Marcos told radio DZMM.

"Iyung baril po, maitatago iyan, iyung shabu po maitatapon," he added.

(One factor of police operations is the element of surprise. If you announce that you're going to raid a house, there is a 90-percent chance that what you won't find the illegal activities stated in your warrant. Guns can be hidden, drugs can be disposed.)

Espinosa, one of the officials named as a drug protector by President Duterte, was killed Saturday along with fellow detainee, Raul Yap, at the Baybay provincial jail after a "shootout" with CIDG operatives serving a search warrant for drugs and firearms.

Two pistols were recovered from Espinosa and Yap while the mayor's cell also yielded a packet of shabu and various drug paraphernalia, police reports said.

Before his death, Espinosa had already surrendered to police last August 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.

'INFORMANT' TOLD CIDG ABOUT ESPINOSA'S GUN

In the interview, Marcos said the CIDG conducted the raid after an informant allegedly spotted a pistol inside Espinosa's cell at the Baybay Provincial Jail.

He said the informant spotted the pistol during a drug transaction with inmate Raul Yap, and then informed CIDG provincial officer Leo Laraga about the weapon.

"Pumunta ito pong impormante kay Raul Yap para ayusin iyung transaksyon nila. Pagkatapos nilang mag-usap, ni-refer siya sa isang selda na sa una, hindi nya pa alam kung sino ang andoon. Pumunta rin daw siya doon at humingi ng approval... Doon niya lang eventually nalaman na si Mayor Espinosa pala iyung nasa loob," Marcos told radio DZMM.

"Based sa account niya, in plain view, mayroong baril doon na nakatiwangwang noong pumasok siya sa selda na iyun."

Acting on the tip, Laraga went to a judge to apply for the search warrants, which were released Friday afternoon.

He immediately assembled a raid team and asked for Marcos' clearance at 1 a.m. Saturday.

In turn, Marcos said he informed the Leyte and Region 8's tactical operations centers, the Baybay City police office and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency of the planned raid.

Laraga's team implemented the warrants at 4 a.m. but had to forcibly enter the facility using a bolt cutter after jail guards supposedly "refused to honor the warrant issued by the court."

Marcos said CIDG agents disarmed the jail guards and ordered them to face the wall before entering the poorly-lit cells of Espinosa and Yap.

The CIDG has said the detainees allegedly fired at the raid party, forcing policemen to shoot back, killing Espinosa and Yap.

News reports said shots were fired during the raid but jail guards were not allowed to enter the cells until 11 a.m.

'MAYOR DID NOT BEG'

Marcos also debunked reports that Espinosa begged for his life before he was murdered by the operatives.

"Iyan po ay kwentong walang katotohanan. Marami pong lumalabas na hindi tama at wala pong katotohanan. Ang kapulisan po ninyo ay hindi kriminal, kami po ay nagpapatupad ng batas," he said.

(That story has no truth. There are many reports which are false and not true. Your policemen are not criminals, we are law enforcers.)

Several officials, including Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and Albuera police chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, have raised suspicions that the mayor was murdered in a possible rubout.

The PNP has launched an investigation into the death of Espinosa, who is the second narco-politician named by Duterte to be killed in a "shootout", after Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.