21 cops serving Espinosa search warrant 'overkill' - PNP internal affairs

Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 08 2016 08:56 AM | Updated as of Nov 08 2016 09:29 AM

MANILA - The Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service (IAS) has begun motu proprio investigation on the killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
The killing of Espinosa inside his cell in Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail in Leyte early Saturday morning has the public questioning the police operation.

Even the PNP-IAS is puzzled.

"The mere fact that it should be a routine service of warrants, and then it led to the death of the person in custody of the authorities of which we are getting information as to the illegal drugs trade in the particular area, makes it imperative for us to look into this," Chief Superintendent Leo Angelo Leuterio, Deputy Inspector General for IAS, said.

The PNP-IAS will first look at the search warrant issued by the CIDG Region 8 against Espinosa.

"Ano ang nature ng search warrant, sino ang nag-issue ‘non, anong specific things they are trying to retrieve, to search. San sila kumukuha ng authority na iyon. What are the specifics of the authority na ibinigay sa kanila kase madaling araw ito. So bakit kailangan ng madaling-araw," Leuterio added.

Leuterio expressed concern that drugs and a gun were allegedly found inside Espinosa's cell.

"Nakakapagtaka in a way na under custody na nga siya eh. Kung bakit nagkaroon ng firefight, meron ba talaga, kung bakit," he said.

The PNP-IAS said the serving of the search warrant by more than 20 police, including operatives of the PNP Maritime Group, is an overkill.

"Why the Maritime Region 8 was involved in the application of the search warrant. Of course, there can be justifications for that, it really raises some questions," he said.

The PNP-IAS will look into the contents of the CCTV recordings in the jail. They admit it will be difficult getting a witness. Leyte provincial administrator Edgardo Cordeño earlier said the hard drive containing CCTV footage of the jail, presumably also of the shooting incident, was nowhere to be found.

"If may CCTV camera talaga na installed doon, if the equipment has been working since time immemorial, during the service of this warrant, we have to look at the angle also kung kelan sya na-report na defective, everything about it. Wala namang lumalabas na eyewitness. Paano sila pumasok, paano sila nag-coordinate?" Leuterio said.

"Ano bang legitimacy ng death. We are certain me corpus delicti, there's a dead person there. Who would probably have enough motive, instrument or the opportunity to have caused his death. And hindi naman kailangang physical evidence lahat yan. Meron namang circumstantial evidence kaya't important ang sinasabing CCTV. In the absence of other pieces of evidence, yung CCTV footage, lalo kung na-cover niya hanggang doon sa selda. We can always trace the circumstantial evidence. Sino ba ang may opportunity na mag-cause ng death ni mayor. And who will have the motive."

Meanwhile, the PNP leadership defended the serving of the search warrant in a jail. Francisco Uyami, PNP Deputy Chief for Administration, said there is no law against the serving of a search warrant in a government facility.

"Sa service of search warrant, normally that can be served against private property. Ang purpose ng search warrant ay to search the place and the things to be seized but wala po sa batas na the search warrant may not be implemented in a government facility kaya korte ang nag-issue pa nga," he said.

Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte lies dead inside his cell at the Baybay City Sub Provincial Jail. Photo courtesy of the CIDG Region 8.

All 21 police, 13 from CIDG Region 8 and eight Maritime Police, are under restrictive custody.

Leuterio said the operatives could be charged with grave misconduct and may even be dismissed from the service. "We assure you that if there is irregularity here, in the death of the mayor, we will be recommending for the dismissal of these people."

Meanwhile, the PNP-Anti Illegal Drugs Group is expediting the return of Kerwin Espinosa who is now incarcerated inside the Al Whatba District Jail in Abu Dhabi.

To allay the public's fears when Kerwin is under PNP custody, the embassy of the Philippines in Abu Dhabi will immediately get his affidavit. The Senate has also suggested that Kerwin submit his affidavit even before returning to the Philippines.

PNP-AIDG Director Bert Ferro said government authorities want to ask Kerwin about his links to the drug trade and the government and PNP officials involved.

"We recall that the PNP-AIDG went to Abu Dhabi to secure Kerwin but failed to do so due to protocols in the UAE. Authorities in the UAE will still investigate if Kerwin has violated laws in their country," he said.

The UAE and the Philippines do not have an extradition treaty.

The PNP-AIDG is now waiting for a call from Abu Dhabi Ambassador Constancio Vingno Jr.