SIX people were killed in an encounter between police commandos and the armed bodyguards of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. in the province yesterday.
Police Regional Office 8 director Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar said members of the Albuera Municipal Police Station and the Regional Public Safety Battalion 8 led by Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido were on routine patrol in Sitio Tinago, Bgy. Binolho when they were fired upon by the suspects around 5:30 a.m. yesterday.
The officers returned fire killing six of the suspects, who were found in armed with 13 long firearms, four cal. .45 pistols and rifle grenades.
Beltejar and Leyte Provincial Police Office director Sr. Supt. Franco Simborio said that Espinosa’s son, Kerwin, was not among those killed in the gunfight.
Two of the suspects died in the mayor’s house, two in the house of Kerwin and two others were shot dead in another house of the elder Espinosa.
The clash came barely 12 hours after Gen. De la Rosa presented Mayor Espinosa to the press in Camp Crame and warned him his son “will die” if he tries to shoot it out with the police.
Mayor Espinosa yesterday met with top PNP officials hours after six of his men were killed in a gun battle with the police. The mayor has been required to report to PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Chief Supt. Roel Obusan.
PNP spokesman Sr. Supt. Dionardo Carlos said there were about 50 armed men in the house of Mayor Espinosa when the gunfight occurred.
Carlos said that a record check with the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office showed that Espinosa only owns three licensed firearms—one 12-gauge shotgun, a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a Glock caliber 40 pistol The licenses for the two pistols expired last May.
Carlos said the PRO8 is still investigating if the slain suspects form part of Espinosa’s private army group.
The mayor surrendered to the PNP chief on Tuesday to beat the 24-hour deadline given to him by President Rodrigo Duterte to yield or he will issue a “shoot-on-sight order” against the two Espinosas.
The elder Espinosa yielded to the PNP chief at 4 a.m. on Tuesday. He was accompanied by two lawyers.
De la Rosa said that the Leyte mayor is listed as a “drug protector” in President Duterte’s watchlist while his son, Kerwin, is a “drug lord.” Kerwin has been tagged by the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as the no. 1 drug suspect in the entire Eastern Visayas region.
“Right now, there is no warrant of arrest issued on him (Mayor Espinosa) so we can’t detain him, but he wants to be under the protective custody of the police. So I will be turning him over to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group,” the PNP chief said.
Mayor Espinosa, accompanied by his wife, daughter and a lawyer showed up at the PNP-CIDG headquarters in Camp Crame at 2 p.m. yesterday.
He refused to make a statement to the media but will issue an affidavit of undertaking that he will always be ready to present himself to the police once required.
Last Thursday, police undercover agents seized an estimated 237 grams of shabu worth P1.9 million during a buy-bust operation near the houses of the Espinosas in Albuera town. The sting also resulted in the arrest of five employees of the Espinosas.
De la Rosa called on the young Espinosa to surrender peacefully. “If you are listening, you should follow your father. Mamatay ka talaga and your life is really in danger,” he said.
De la Rosa said police will shoot Kerwin in case he resists arrest and is found to be armed.’ “He will die if he is armed and he will fight us,” the PNP top cop said.
With Zaida delos Reyes-Palanca