Ex-mayor arrested over drug and gun charges
ARAYAT – Former Arayat Mayor Luisito “Chito” Espino on Wednesday vehemently denied the accusations thrown against him by joint operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and local police who raided his house in Barangay Cacutud here.
At around 4:00 a.m. of Wednesday, personnel of CIDG backed by two V-150 armored trucks, members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and local police raided the house of Espino while serving search warrant operation 23-2017 issued on February 7, 2017 by Judge Ana Marie Joson-Viterbo of RTC Branch 24 (Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija) against the former mayor for alleged illegal possession of firearms and narcotics.
Espino and Cacutud village chairman Rosendo Dizon, along with Romy Mallari, Cesar Peralta and Rosauro Dillera, who are alleged members of a private armed group identified as Espino Criminal Gang allegedly operated by the former mayor, were arrested after resisting arrest and engaging operatives in a shootout which lasted for about an hour.
Seized from the suspects' possession were an M16 assault rifle, three calibre .45 pistols, a 9mm calibre pistol, three hand grenades, two rifle grenades, ammunitions for different kinds of firearms and six packs of suspected shabu.
However, the former mayor asserted that he does not and never operated a private armed group or a gun-for-hire group contrary to the claims of the law enforcement officers.
He narrated that he was still sleeping when the armed personnel barged inside his house and did not know that they were serving a search warrant which triggered him to take a gunshot at them.
He stressed that Mallari and Dillera, whom police claimed as members of his private armed group, are caretakers of his fighting cock farm behind his house.
Espino refuted the police report stating that various firearms and explosives were seized in his possession and alleged that “they were planted by the raiding team”.
He asserted that he only owns two licensed firearms, which he used in taking a gunshot, and never owned or used hand grenades.
The former mayor insisted that he never sold or used illegal drugs and urged the policemen to do a drug test on him to prove his claim.
He also alleged that the police operation conducted against him is “purely politically motivated and orchestrated to mar his reputation”.
Espino, together with the three other suspects are now detained at the Pampanga Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit field office in Angeles City for further investigation.
Espino is a three-term mayor of Arayat town from 2001 to 2010. He ran again during the 2016 elections but lost to incumbent Mayor Emmanuel “Bon” Alejandrino.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on February 17, 2017.
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