WITH Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa literally acting as his top escort to ensure his safety, suspected Eastern Visayas drug lord Roland ‘Kerwin’ Espinosa Jr. was immediately whisked to the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame after arriving in Manila yesterday from Abu Dhabi.
A Philippine Airlines flight PR 657 carrying Kerwin and a team of police officials led by Senior Superintendent Albert Ignatius D. Ferro, the director of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, who fetched him from Abu Dhabi arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 around 4 a.m. yesterday and the young Espinosa was immediately presented to the PNP chief who was accompanied by heavily-armed agents of the PNP-AIDG.
Made to wear a PNP-AIDG bullet-proof vest to ensure his safety, the suspected drug lord was in handcuffs and clad in a black-and-orange shirt and cream-colored shorts when he arrived at the NAIA.
Members of the PNP Aviation Security Group under Chief Supt. Ma-o Aplasca beefed-up security at the NAIA Terminal 2 where Gen. dela Rosa arrived early to check the security measures taken by the police. National Capital Region Police Office and PNP Highway Patrol Group agents also helped enhance the security for Kerwin.
Kerwin later said in a Camp Crame press conference that he feels safe with his police escorts and no longer fears for his life since his father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed right inside his cell in Baybay, Leyte by agents of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in a reported gunbattle.
“Ngayon, wala na akong takot sa pulis... Na-feel ko yung safety ko. Na safe na ako,” the suspect said.
Kerwin denied he fled the country via the Mindanao backdoor. The suspect said he first flew to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia before going to Phuket, Thailand. From Phuket, he went to Bangkok before flying to Hong Kong.
After a brief stay in the former British Crown Colony, Kerwin said he flew to Abu Dhabi where he stayed until he was arrested following tips from overseas Filipino workers who spotted him while he was trying to extend his stay in the oil-rich city with the help of his contacts from a Filipino-run travel agency.
According to Gen. de la Rosa, Kerwin had a nose job in an effort to alter his looks and evade authorities. However, Kerwin denied it and claimed he had his nose fixed long before he got embroiled in a massive drug controversy after President Duterte immediately named him as one of the top drug personalities in the country during the first few weeks of the former Davao City mayor’s presidency.
Espinosa is being treated by the Philippine National Police both as a suspect and a witness who could help pin down more drug personalities and their protectors from the government, PNP chief De la Rosa said yesterday.
“Bina-balance lang namin ‘yung aming treatment sa kanya. Very vital siya. Kerwin is like the missing link. He is like the missing piece of the puzzle, Ganoon kahalaga yung kanyang papel,” the PNP chief said during the presentation of the son of the late Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
According to de la Rosa, he has been told by Kerwin that he is willing to spill the beans on the illegal drug trade and the persons who have been protecting him and his other accomplices.
“Sinabi naman niya sa akin na since namatay na ‘yung kanyang father, he is willing to tell all, he is willing to tell everything that he knows regarding the illegal drug trade na kung saan siya involved,” the top cop said.
A meek as a lamb Kerwin profusely apologized to President Duterte for his involvement in big-time drug trafficking in Eastern Visayas and vowed to tell all he knows about the illicit trade.
“Humihingi ako ng tawad kay President Duterte. Kung anong nagawa ko dati, sana bigyan niya ako ng pagkakataong magbagong buhay,” Kerwin said when he was presented to newsmen in Camp Crame by Dela Rosa.
“Itong sitwasyon ko ngayon na wala na ang Papa ko, maaasahan niya (President Duterte) na lahat ng involved sa drug trade na nalalaman ko, lalabas sila lahat—‘yung mga pangalan nila,” he said.
Kerwin’s statement will be taken by the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group headed by Senior Superintendent Albert Ignatius D. Ferro inside the maximum-security PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
Gen. dela Rosa said security will be tight inside the jail and all visitors of Kerwin including his family and lawyer should first get a clearance from him or Ferro.
According to the PNP chief, PNP-AIDG investigators will be cross-matching the names to be given by Kerwin with those on the list provided by his father before he was killed. Gen. de la Rosa also said that if the Senate will request it, they will present Kerwin to the Upper Chamber for questioning.
Pacquiao meets Kerwin
Sen. Manny Pacquiao paid a surprise visit to suspected Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa while he was undergoing questioning at the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group headquarters in Camp Crame, making him the first top elected official of the country to visit the suspect after he was presented to the press.
According to Espinosa’s lawyers John Ungab and Lani Villarin, it was their client who requested Pacquiao to visit him, a request which the boxing icon-turned lawmaker quickly granted. Later in an interview, Sen. Pacquiao said Kerwin detailed his transactions with some high-government officials during their conversation.