Share Share Share – Breaking News: Kalalabas pa lang ni Mayor Espinosa Sr. sa Kampo Crame, ngayon balik nanaman siya. 13 high powered assault rifles and 4 pistols were taken from the 6 dead men (another 6 companions were reported to have escaped). Like Like Like —–>>>>> Duterte
(The Philippine Star) August 4, 2016
PALO, LEYTE, Philippines – Six armed men, said to be part of the private army of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa and his son Kerwin, were killed in a shootout with police in their hometown early yesterday.
Acting police regional director Chief Supt. Elmer Cruz Beltejar said the lawmen returned fire at the armed group in Sitio Tinago, Barangay Benolho where three houses of the Espinosas are located.
Beltejar said the policemen were on routine patrol in the area when the armed group opened fire from one of the houses.
“These members of the Espinosa group were occupying one of the Espinosas’ houses, specifically where the rooster farm is located. They fired first, so our policemen were forced to fire back,” Beltejar said.
Beltejar said the six fatalities have yet to be identified.
Initial reports identified two of the slain suspects as Ricky Gravello of Ormoc City and Teresito Paderangga of Zamboanga City. Three others were only known as “Tatay,” “Edgar” and “Intsik.”
Beltejar said the policemen initially encountered around 12 men armed with automatic weapons.
After the firefight, some of the suspects escaped, leaving behind several high-powered assault rifles, automatic handguns and rifle grenades.
The clash came a day after Mayor Espinosa surrendered to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
Authorities alleged Espinosa has been protecting drug dealers, including his son Kerwin, who has not surrendered.
Espinosa surrendered within the 24-hour deadline given to him by President Duterte to yield or a “shoot-on-sight” order would be issued against him and his son. Dela Rosa has warned the younger Espinosa “will die” if he elects to shoot it out with police.
PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said the armed men are believed to be part of the Espinosa group.
“There was no reason why policemen would open fire (first). The shots came from inside one of the houses, so after the exchange of gunfire the policemen went inside the house after the threat was neutralized. They entered only in the aftermath of the operation,” Carlos said.
Two of the slain suspects were found near the foyer of the mayor’s house, two were shot in the area where fighting cocks are bred and two others lay dead by the gate of Kerwin’s compound.
Carlos clarified the policemen were not on a mission to raid the Espinosa houses but they were on routine patrol when they figured in a firefight with the group.
“It is normal duty to conduct patrol operations in the community. The operation did not specifically target the compound of the mayor. Unfortunately, they were fired upon,” he said.
Carlos said the mayor will be asked by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) about the presence of armed men in his house.
“We will trace the guns, the guns registered under his name should be at his house,” Carlos said.
Espinosa appeared before the CIDG yesterday, with his lawyer Romeo Esmero speaking on his behalf.
Esmero denied the armed men killed in the mayor’s house were his bodyguards.
The mayor never tolerated his son Kerwin’s forays into illegal drugs, the lawyer said.
Esmero also denied the mayor was involved in drug trafficking.
An emotional Espinosa, for his part, pleaded to his son to surrender, saying the PNP chief has given assurance to assist them.
“Kerwin please surrender. PNP chief Dela Rosa promised to help you,” Espinosa told reporters after he gave his statement before the CIDG in a closed-door meeting.
Carlos said authorities are looking into reports the younger Espinosa has already fled the country. There were reports that Kerwin underwent plastic surgery to change his facial appearance to evade arrest.
Reports said Kerwin left for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last June 21 on Cebu Pacific flight 5J501.
The Espinosas have been linked to major drug trafficking in Eastern Visayas.
Dela Rosa said Mayor Espinosa had been listed in police records as a “drug protector” whose son controlled the narcotics trade in the region.
The mayor was the second high-profile drug suspect to turn himself in after being accused of drug-related crimes by Duterte.
Another local official, Daanbantayan, Cebu Mayor Vicente Loot, was one of five police generals linked by Duterte to the illegal drug trade.
Loot is a retired police general who served as anti-narcotics unit chief of the Central Visayas regional police.
Loot denied the allegations of Duterte as well as reports linking him to Kerwin.
“I never knew him. I heard about him when I was Central Visayas (anti-narcotics) chief. I did not use him as an asset in illegal drugs,” he said.
Loot said that in 2011, he learned the regional police were hunting Kerwin. He said he even furnished a copy of the warrant of arrest for the younger Espinosa to policemen. – Lalaine Jimenea, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Evelyn Macairan, AP