“I HAVE no direct involvement with Gen. Espina.”
This was what alleged drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, as he referred to retired Philippine National Police Officer-in-Charge, General Leonardo A. Espina, when grilled by Senator Grace Poe during yesterday’s resumption of the Senate investigation on the elder Espinosa’s killing.
This as another retired PNP general vowed to ferret out the truth in Espinosa’s claims.
Still mourning the death of his 88-year old mother, former Police Regional Office 8 director, now retired Chief Superintendent Asher A. Dolina yesterday denied allegations by Espinosa that he gave him some P6 million in ‘protection money’ saying that in all probability, his name was also used by a brother-in-law of ex- Philippine National Police OIC Gen. Espina to get money from the moneyed Espinosas.
Gen. Espina had earlier said he wanted only the truth to come out and prayed hard for it.
“I pray that God’s hand be upon all those who will attend the Senate hearing today (yesterday) for the truth, and only the truth to come out. It is the only most important thing that I pray for to God today. God is our God of truth, our God of Justice. And he is our shield to those who look to Him for protection. I take refuge in Him and no evil will conquer me and my family,’ Espina said.
His prayers were answered yesterday.
Meanwhile, Dolina said, “My conscience is clear and I will swear into high heavens that I have been a protector of drugs during my entire years in the military and police service.”
Dolina, a lawyer from Philippine Military Academy Class 1983 who retired from the police service last September 21, talked with the Journal Group yesterday just moments after the plane carrying the casket bearing his mother landed at the Tacloban City airport.
Dolina’s mother died of illness at the Armed Forces Medical Center in V. Luna, Quezon City the other day and the family brought her remains to Tacloban City for interment. The retired police officer said his family’s grief doubled when they heard that his name had been dragged into a national controversy by the young Espinosa.
Kerwin yesterday told a Senate inquiry that Victor Espina, a brother-in-law of Gen. Espina was the one who asked him to give an ‘SOP,’ a parlance for monthly protection to Dolina when he became the PRO8 director in Eastern Visayas. He even described Victor as the ‘bagman’ of Dolina who first approached him and told him that the PNP official wanted to talk with him.
In his testimony, Kerwin claimed that Victor told him that Dolina was asking for a P500,000 ‘SOP’ but he said he cannot provide the amount and haggled for a much lower P300,000 protection money.
During their conversation, Kerwin said that Victor even dialed his phone and made him to talk to a man whom he said was Dolina. Following their conversation, Kerwin claimed that he gave a total of P6 million to Dolina thru Victor, the money deposited thru check in a local Banco de Oro branch.
Kerwin claimed that he was told by Victor that Dolina wanted the money to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Dolina vehemently denied Kerwin’s charges and said he is ready to defend himself even in Plaza Miranda. He said that it is a known fact that when he became the Eastern Visayas police director, he ordered a massive anti-drugs campaign particularly targeting the Espinosa Group.
Dolina said that when his men shot and killed one ‘Simban,’ a Muslim said to be a righthand man of Kerwin during an anti-narcotics operation, Kerwin was believed to have flown to Thailand afraid that he would be their next target.
The retired general however said that he was glad to hear that Kerwin had bared that the money he supposedly gave to him was deposited by Victor and an unidentified female companion in a BDO branch. “We have to trace the paper trail in order to find out whose account the check was deposited,” he said.
Early this month, senior PNP officials ruled out any involvement whatsoever of their former boss, now retired Gen. Espina 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.
The investigation was conducted by teams sent by PNP Deputy Chief for Operations, Director Benjamin B. Magalong and Police Regional Office 8 director, Chief Supt, Elmer C. Beltejar upon the request of Espina himself. The investigators’ common finding is that Espina’s brother-in-law Victor L. Espina Jr. literally used the former top cop’s name to seek personal favors from the Espinosas.
Victor is the brother of the retired general’s wife Maridee whose last name also happened to be Espina. Espina, a member of PMA Class 1981 hails from Batangas while Maridee’s family is from the Visayas.
In a statement sent to the Journal Group, the retired top cop said that last September, “I was informed that I 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.”
“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.
Victor was believed to have 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.
“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. Journal Group sources said that Martin 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,” Gen. 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,” Gen. Espina added.
Victor Espina used to reside in Ormoc City which is near Albuera municipality.