Palace: Espinosa death a 'big loss' in war on drugs

MANILA, Philippines – Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the killing of Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr while in detention is a setback for the government’s war on drugs. 

Andanar told dzRB on Sunday, November 6, that Espinosa was expected to name other individuals involved in the illegal drug trade. 

Kaya ako I’m puzzled and at the same time I am also sad that this happened kasi nga, malaki sana ang maitutulong ni Mayor Espinosa sa imbestigasyon ng ating gobyerno para ma-pin down kung sinu-sino ‘yung mga involved sa illegal drugs. Lalong-lalo na ‘yung mga taong gobyerno na di umano’y may kinalaman sa paglago ng shabu sa bansa natin,” said Andanar.

(That’s why I’m puzzled and at the same time I am also sad this happened because Mayor Espinosa would have been a big help in the government’s investigation to pin down those involved in illegal drugs. This is especially true for those in government who are involved in the proliferation of shabu in our country.) 

Kaya para sa akin ay malaking kawalan po sa gobyerno na namatay si Mayor Espinosa,” he added. 

(For me, the death of Mayor Espinosa is a big loss for the government.)

Members of the Philippine National Police Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 entered the Baybay, Leyte sub-provincial jail on November 5 to serve a search warrant against Espinosa and another inmate, Raul Yap, for allegedly keeping firearms and illegal drugs in jail. 

Police reports said a “firefight” erupted between the inmates and the police, causing the deaths of Espinosa and Yap.

Firearms were recovered in each of the cells of the inmates. A sachet of shabu and drug paraphernalia were also supposedly seized from Espinosa's cell. 

The Albuerta town mayor was charged with possession of illegal firearms and illegal drugs and had been detained since early October. He was among the first local chief executives to “surrender” to the police after being linked to illegal drugs.

No less than President Rodrigo Duterte in August called on Espinosa and his son, alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, to surrender peacefully or face a "shoot on sight" order.  

The elder Espinosa surrendered to PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa in Camp Crame less than 24 hours after the President issued the warning.  

He initially stayed inside the White House, Dela Rosa’s official residence in the camp, before being returned to the Albuera town police’s custody.  

Before being arrested, Espinosa supposedly issued an affidavit detailing Kerwin’s links to the illegal drug trade. The younger Espinosa is currently detained in Abu Dhabi and is expected to be deported to the Philippines soon. 

Malacañang 'respects' Lacson's criticism

The deaths of Espinosa and Yap during a police operation were criticized by several individuals and sectors. 

Senator Panfilo Lacson, former PNP chief, questioned how a prisoner inside a jail cell “could even think of fighting against police officers serving a warrant.” (READ: Senators alarmed over killing of Albuera mayor Espinosa in jail

Lacson said he “can smell EJK (extrajudicial killing),” yet another criticism against the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs. (READ: IN NUMBERS: The Philippines' 'war on drugs’

Andanar said Malacañang respects Lacson’s opinion as he is a legislator.  

“We respect Senator Lacson’s opinon. And we will also be guided by Senator Lacson’s wisdom. But then again, the Senate is an independent branch of government and antayin kung anong magiging hakbang ng Senado (we will wait for the steps to be taken by the Senate), and the Palace will respect whatever the Senate or the Lower House, the Congress would decide on what to do,” said Andanar. 

Dela Rosa himself promised "nothing will be hidden" or "covered up" during the PNP’s investigation of the operation. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.