Eastern Visayas cops in Espinosa slay to face Senate

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Fifteen members of the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in Eastern Visayas, along with CIDG-VIII's Chief Superintendnt Marvin Marcos, left Tacloban City on Wednesday to answer a Senate inquiry in Manila on Thursday, November 10.

The CIDG members in question served the search warrant on Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr of Albuera , Leyte, and Raul Yap at the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Baybay City. Espinosa was killed last Saturday, November 5, inside his jail cell in a reported shootout with CIDG personnel.

The committees on public order and on justice and human rights will investigate the deaths of Espinosa and another mayor, Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.  They both died weeks after being included in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug list. 

Marcos clarified that there was no relief order coming fro the CIDG Manila. He added that the CIDG operatives in question had been in the office working, but will not be given field assignments until the conclusion of the probe.

Marcos also held that it was a legitimate operation with no irregularities. "Waray kami mag plant hin ebidensya, ngan waray kami mag kuha han hard drive hito na CCTV footage." (We never plant evidence nor did we take the hard drive of the CCTV footage.)

The 3-man team of PNP CIDG-Manila – composed of Senior Superintendent Ramon Rafael, CIDG legal division lawyer Virgilio Pablico, and Senior Police Officer 1 Rudy Gahar – began their investigation into the death of Espinosa on Monday.

Meanwhile, another investigation is ongoing, done by the Regional Internal Affairs Service of Police Regional Office 8.

Chief Inspector Ma. Bella Rentuaya, PNP Regional Office VIII spokesperson, told Rappler that despite the many questions surrounding the shooting incident, they are doing their best to answer all those questions based on the facts gathered.

"We can’t speculate about investigations that are still in progress, but what we can offer are information based on the initial result of the investigation we have and we assure the public and the Espinosa family that a fair investigation will be conducted and enforce the full force of the law against erring policemen," Rentuaya said.

The initial investigation report

According to the Initial investigation results conducted by the RIAS on November 5, hours after the incident happened, elements of the CIDG-8, led by Police Chief Inspector Leo Larraga arrived at the Baybay Sub-Provincial Jail at 3:20 a.m.

They immediately informed the jail guard on-duty and manning the gate of the serving of a search warrant for Mayor Espinosa.

As one of the jail guards was about to open the gate, the raiding team of the CIDG allegedly forcibly opened the gate and subsequently ordered all the duty provincial guards, including the 4 police personnel tasked to secure Mayor Espinosa, to kneel down facing the wall.

While their firearms were temporarily confiscated by the CIDG as a safety and precautionary measure, the search warrants were being implemented by the raiding team.

According to the provincial guards and the 4 PNP personnel, after several minutes several bursts of gunfire were heard. At around 7 am, the SOCO arrived at the facility and performed crime scene processing. It was only then that they learned about the death of Mayor Espinosa and Raul Yap inside their respective cells. The guards were allowed to roam the jail facility only after 10 am.

The co-inmates of Raul Yap, according to the investigation report of RIAS, confided to an investigator that when the raiding team arrived at their cell, they were ordered to vacate it. They transferred to another prison cell, leaving behind Raul Yap.

A moment later, they heard gun fire inside the prison cell of Yap.

Rentuaya said the statement made by those inmates and jail guards are purely based on the result of the initial interview made by RIAS investigators right after the incident.

RIAS is set to take the sworn statements of all those who have personal knowledge of the incident. – Rappler.com