DILG chief orders Napolcom probe into Espinosa death

MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno on Monday, November 7, ordered the National Police Commission (Napolcom) to conduct a parallel probe into the death of Albuera, Leyte, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr while in jail.

Espinosa, detained on charges that he violated the country’s illegal drugs and firearms laws, was slain at dawn on November 5 inside the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City. It was supposedly a result of a police operation to serve search warrants against him and another inmate, Raul Yap.

Yap also died as a result of the supposed fire fight.

“While the PNP’s Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS) has automatically started its own investigation, it is still necessary for Napolcom to get into the picture to lend integrity and credibility to the probe,” Sueno said in a statement.

The PNP’s Region VIII IAS launched the probe into the incident on the same day it happened. On November 6, Camp Crame officials from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) flew to Leyte to conduct their own investigation.

PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa earlier promised a fair probe into the incident. 

Sueno, as interior chief, chairs the Napolcom. The Napolcom has administrative and operational supervision over the civilian PNP. The commission can conduct pre-charge investigations of suspected police anomalies and irregularities. It also has the power to sanction and even dismiss police found guilty of violating standard procedures and laws.

“Napolcom should make this (probe) as their top priority. We have to know what really transpired on that day. We owe the family of the slain inmates and the public a factual and detailed account of the incident,” said Sueno.

The death of Espinosa, who had earlier “surrendered” in Camp Crame after he was linked to the illegal drugs trade, has sparked the concern and condemnation of various sectors.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was once PNP chief, expressed doubts over claims of a “shootout.” He said, considering the circumstances, the case might be a instance of extrajudicial killings by police.

The Senate decided on Monday to investigate not just then death of Espinosa but that of Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao in October. Both mayors were on President Rodrigo Duterte's list of drug personalities.

Police have long had to fend allegations of summary killings by members of their ranks in the context of the ongoing "war on drugs." 

In August, Espinosa was ordered by President Duterte to surrender after police seized shabu during an operation against his men in Albuera. Less than 24 hours later, Espinosa “surrendered” before Dela Rosa.

His son, whom Duterte also told to surrender, was apparently already out of the country.

Kerwin, the mayor’s son, is supposedly the top drug lord in Eastern Visayas. Kerwin has since been apprehended in the United Arab Emirates but cannot come home to the Philippines yet pending an investigation by Abu Dhabi police. – Rappler.com