I’M writing this piece in defense of a good friend, retired Philippine National Police head, General Leonardo ‘Dindo’ Espina whose name has somehow been sullied after he was linked to the illegal drug activities of the infamous Rolando and Kerwin Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte simply because the general’s name was used by his ‘name-dropping’ brother-in-law.
I have known Spine or simply ‘Neighbs’ to me his wife Maridee and three sons for more than 20 years now and I would describe them as a God-loving and simple family, all Godly persons who would regularly treat their household companions to a sumptuous dinner—sometimes with me and my wife Candy and two daughters present— spent hours with their fellow worshippers and help the poor and the needy without telling the whole world about it.
The Espinas have been doing those things without expecting anything in return, I will tell you and the Good Lord surely knows it. I believe this is the reason why Espina has had an illustrious career in the Constabulary and the police-starting from being a Constabulary Company Commander in Ormoc until he rose to the top, became a PNP spokesman, a PNP Highway Patrol Group director, a National Capital Region Police Office director until he bowed out from the police force as its Officer-in-Charge in July 2015.
I think that ‘Neighbs’ and his family has been spared from any danger since it is God’s will. But one thing I will tell you is that his family is not known for dropping his good name. Maridee and her kids are known for being law-abiders that they would personally go to the MMDA office to pay their fines for unwittingly violating the ‘odd-even’ scheme, join the long queue at the airports and easily mingle with people from all walks of life oblivious to the fact that Neighbs happened to be one of the most popular figures in the country.
Namedroppers they’re not. Remember that day when Neighbs’ son Miko was victimized by a rogue Quezon City Police District patrolman? Miko could have easily mentioned the name of his father who was to assume the top Metro Manila police force just hours before he was accosted on trumped-up charges by that scalawag.
Miko could have easily told that rogue cop that he was the son of the incoming NCRPO director but he did not. He only identified himself as the son of Gen. Espina when the rogue policeman brought him to an ATM booth and asked him to withdraw money. That was the last straw and he phoned his father to tell him about the situation. The rest as they say is history.
Back to ‘name-dropping’ again, I learned that senior PNP officials have ruled out any involvement whatsoever of their former Boss to the illegal drug activities of slain Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. and his son Kerwin and concluded that the former top cop’s name was merely used by his brother-in-law in order to ingratiate himself with the moneyed Espinosas. I’m talking of Victor L. Espina Jr.
The investigation was conducted by teams sent by PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Director Benjie Magalong and Police Regional Office 8 director, Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar upon the request of Espina himself. The investigators’ common finding is that Espina’s brother-in-law Victor literally used the former top cop’s name to seek personal favors from the Espinosas.
For the information of the public, Victor is the brother of the good-hearted Maridee whose last name also happened to be Espina. Espina, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1981 hails from Batangas while Maridee’s family is from the Visayas. In a statement, the retired top cop said that he learned last September that his name was included in the list relayed by Mayor Espinosa as one of those who protected this Kerwin Espinosa. “These are persons I do not personally know,” Espina said.
“Being innocent and having no clue, my instinctive response was to immediately see the Deputy PNP Chief for Operations, Gen. Magalong. I inquired about this matter and requested him to fully investigate this incident in coordination with Gen. Beltejar, the Police Regional Director of PRO8.
I came to know later through the investigation of Generals Magalong and Beltejar that Victor Espina Jr., my brother-in-law (we have the same last names), was somehow pinpointed as a supplier of arms for the Espinosas and that he used my name.”
I got it from highly-reliable sources that Victor facilitated the purchase of licensed firearms by the Espinosas in the past using his brother-in-law’s name in making transactions with the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office unknown to the general. Espina added: “In addition, I learned from Martin Espina, also my brother-in-law, that Victor used my name to allegedly cause the transfer of an officer as requested by the Espinosas. Martin is also a brother of Victor. I learned from other sources that Victor was previously cautioned by some police officials for frequenting the place of Kerwin although the latter is already in the police radar for his involvement in illegal drugs.
One police official said that he asked Victor to stay away from Kerwin since it would not do good to the name of their chief. “In these two instances, it was made to appear by Victor Espina Jr. before the Espinosas that I was aware of the illegal actions, taking undue advantage of the position I held. Furthermore, Victor Espina received money in return for these actions,” said Espina.
According to the retired PNP head, investigators from the National Headquarters headed by Director Magalong down to the Regional Headquarters headed by Beltejar and Provincial and Station police levels for the past few months “took painstaking efforts to investigate this case through factual evidence gathering, research and interviews to determine the truthfulness of this account.”
“In the end, investigators have determined and concluded that Victor L. Espina Jr., my brother-in-law, indeed used my name and took advantage of the position I held then in 2015 and made it appear before the Espinosas that I was aware of the reported illegal transactions he made with them.
Borrowing Gen. Beltejar’s words, he said: “Talagang nagamit ang name ni Gen. Espina para lang magkapera,” referring to Victor,” he said.
As a result of his extensive fact-finding investigation, charges have reportedly been filed against Victor Espina Jr. before the court for trial. Victor Espina Jr. also voluntarily executed an affidavit submitted to Gen. Magalong to confess and own up to his personal actions. Victor said it was “his way of making right whatever harm my actions have caused my brother-in-law since all of these are my own personal actions and he truly has nothing to do with them.”
“With these events, it may seem like darkness has overcome but I see two bright lights of hope,” Espina said.
First, that God has kept me steadfast in my course not to give in to the temptations like those posed by such persons as this Kerwin Espinosa. Second, that so far there are no reports of Victor Espina Jr.’s name in drug dealing. I hope and pray that there never was and never will be a positive report for this terrible crime,” he said.
“Lastly, I thank all the investigators from the National down to the Regional, Provincial and Station police levels who have ascertained the truthfulness of this account through their painstaking researches, interviews and investigation of this case for the past several months. Without them, I could never have known that my name was used for these dastardly acts. Thank you,” he said.
Before I end, I am asking my dear readers to join me and my family in praying for the Espinas who are also somehow experiencing personal pain in dealing with Maridee’s sick mother, our dear Mommy Ditas.