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Espina cleared, another general denies drug link

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 Kerwin Espinosa that he gave him some P6 million in “protection money” saying in all probability, his name was also used by a brother-in-law of also retired Philippine National Police Officer-in-Charge General Leonardo A. Espina to get money from the Espinosas.

Gen. Espina said he wants only the truth to come out in yesterday’s hearing and prayed hard for it.

“I pray that God’s hand be upon all those who will attend the Senate hearing today 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,” he said.

His prayers were answered when Kerwin, when grilled by Senator Grace Poe, said: “I have no direct involvement with Gen. Espina.”

“My conscience is clear and I will swear into high heavens that I have never been a protector of drugs during my entire years in the military and police service,” said Dolina, a lawyer from Philippine Military Academy Class 1983 who retired from the police service last September 21.
   
Dolina talked with the Journal Group yesterday just moments after the plane carrying the casket bearing his mother landed at the Tacloban City airport.
   
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 term 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 through Victor, the money deposited through check in a local Banco de Oro branch.
   
Kerwin claimed that he was told by Victor that Dolina needed 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 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 when his men shot and killed one “Simban,” a Muslim said to be a right hand 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 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 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.