PNP to file raps vs. ‘narco’ mayor

TACLOBAN CITY — The Philippine National Police (PNP) is preparing to file cases against Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. initially for drug-related activities and murder.

PNP Eastern Visayas Regional Director Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar said they have been gathering pieces of evidence that link the mayor to the previous killings perpetrated by the Espinosa group.

“We are building a tight case against them. There are many willing witnesses coming out providing vital information unlike in the past where people are scared to testify,” Beltejar said.

The band of private armed group is allegedly led by the mayor and his son, Rolando, Jr. known as Kerwin, a top drug lord in Eastern Visayas.

At least six of them were killed during an encounter with the police early Wednesday morning.

The police identified those killed in shootout as Ricky Gravillo of Albuera, Teresito Laro Paderanga of Zamboanga del Sur, Richard Mato of Zamboanga del Sur, an alias Tatay from Mindanao, an alias Arman from Mindanao, and one unidentified bodyguard.

“They were hired as liquidation squad to execute the murder of enemies of Espinosa, secure the father during the campaign,” Beltejar added.

The armed group is reportedly behind the killings of the town’s former police chief, a newly-elected town councilor and a police asset. These killings took place between May to July this year.

On Thursday, the police regional office presented to the media some 21 assorted long firearms, 16 short firearms, hand grenade, and ammunitions recovered after the fire fight, buy-bust operation and some were turned over by alleged members of the Espinosa group who surrendered to authorities.

The police recovered these firearms between July 28 until Wednesday midnight.

Espinosa, according to Beltejar is now included in the latest drug watch list for allegedly coddling his drug lord son. Sarwell Meniano/PNA/