Updated 11:04 AM PHT Mon, November 7, 2016
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Authorities are investigating the death of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, one of the government officials linked by President Rodrigo Duterte to the illegal drug trade, and one other inmate in Leyte early Saturday morning.
Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) 8 Regional Chief Marvin Marcos told CNN Philippines that an informant told Leyte CIDG 8 provincial officer Leo Laraga that Espinosa had a .45 caliber pistol inside his cell at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City, while inmate, Raul Yap, was involved in illegal drug transactions.
Laraga then went to a judge to apply for the search warrants, which were released Friday afternoon and were carried out at around 4 a.m. Saturday.
Marcos said jail guards resisted and blocked the 15 CIDG operatives from carrying out the search warrants. It took them 15 minutes to enter the jail cells, which he said gave Espinosa and Yap time to prepare for the search.
The officer said a shootout ensued during the operation.
"Pagpasok pa lang ng operatiba natin, pinaputukan na po sila. Dun po nagkaron po ng desisyon yung mga kapulisan natin na gumanti ng putok. Na resulta po ng ikinamatay ni Mayor Espinosa at Raul Yap," Marcos said.
[Translation: When our operatives entered, they were fired at. That was when our police decided to retaliate. This led to the deaths of Espinosa and Raul Yap.]
CIDG 8 Regional Chief Marvin Marcos: Mayor Espinosa, inmate shot at police, so the CIDG operatives fired back. This caused their deaths pic.twitter.com/ZHrKGHM93I— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) November 5, 2016
Marcos also explained the need to serve a search warrant for Espinosa and Yap despite being detained in prison.
"Nagkakaroon ng pagkakataon na nagbibigay ng search warrant based sa credible deponent kapag mayroong krimen na nangyayari sa loob ng isang facility, gaya ng isang jail, tulad ng pagpapasok ng droga, pagpapasok ng baril. Dapat kasama po ito sa iniimbestigahan kasi minsan ito ay tino-tolerate ng mga miyembro ng jail facilities," he said.
[Translation: There are cases a search warrant is given if a credible source says a crime is happening inside a facility, such as jails, like when illegal drugs or firearms are brought in. It is included in what should be investigated because sometimes members of jail facilities tolerate it.]
The Scene Of The Crime Operatives (SOCO) has so far recovered two firearms from the scene of the incident. He said Espinosa used a .38 Super gun.
The CIDG said the SOCO was able to recover several sachets containing suspected shabu, suspected dried marijuana leaves, and assorted drug paraphernalia.
Chief Inspector Leo Laraga of CIDG Region 8 says SOCO now securing jail cell of Albuera Mayor Espinosa, where the alleged shootout happened pic.twitter.com/OYuGfBqngd— CNN Philippines (@cnnphilippines) November 5, 2016
PNP ordered to launch investigation
The Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael D. Sueno ordered the PNP to investigate the incident immediately.
"We want to know if CIDG Region 8 followed standard operating procedures in undertaking this operation and in serving the search warrant to Espinosa and Yap," he said.
Sueno said that while Espinosa and Yap are high-profile inmates, the police still need to stick to operation protocol and respect the rights of suspects, unless their lives are in danger.
CHR to look into incident
The Commission on Human Rights will conduct an independent investigation to look into the death of Mayor Espinosa.
"The Commission assures the public that it will remain faithful to its constitutional duty
to uphold the rights of all, without distinction," it said in a statement on Saturday.
Who is Rolando Espinosa
Police arrested Espinosa on October 5 and charged him with illegal possession of dangerous drugs and firearms, following a warrant for his arrest issued by the Baybay City Regional Trial Court Branch 14.
The arrest came almost two months after authorities seized 11 kilograms of shabu worth ?88-million (USD 1.8 million) and ingredients used for making bombs in a raid on Espinosa's house last August 10.
On August 2, Espinosa turned himself in to police at the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, fearing for his life as Duterte announced a 24-hour ultimatum for him and his son to surrender or be shot.
Pending arrest warrant, Espinosa returned to his hometown in Leyte on August 16, closely monitored by police.
His son, Kerwin was arrested in Abu Dhabi on October 27. He is now under the custody of authorities in Abu Dhabi, and they are processing his return to Manila to face charges of drug trafficking.