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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Leyte's 'narco' mayor arraigned on firearms, drugs charges

TACLOBAN CITY -- Detained Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was arraigned at a Baybay City court Wednesday, October 12, on charges of illegal possession of firearms and of violating the illegal drugs law.

Espinosa pleaded not guilty to the illegal possession of firearms case, while his lawyer, Lailanie Villarmino, filed a motion to quash, or make the warrant of arrest invalid for his case on violating the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The arraignment started at 9:26 a.m. and lasted for only 30 minutes inside the heavily guarded Regional Trial Court Branch 14 in Baybay City.

Accompanied by his family, the mayor’s camp filed a motion to transfer his custody to the Albuera police station and a motion to fix the amount of bail for the case on violating the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

Prosecutors were given five days to study the motions. The next hearing was scheduled on October 19.

Espinosa has been detained at the Leyte sub-provincial jail in Tacloban City after his arrest on October 5. The mayor, whose son, Kerwin Espinosa, allegedly the region’s top drug lord, is alone in a detention cell.

Provincial Jail Warden Homobono Bardillon said isolating the mayor from other inmates is part of their security measures, considering that Espinosa is a high-profile detainee.

“We can assure the mayor’s safety in Baybay sub-provincial jail, especially with the deployment of more policemen here,” Bardillon added.

Espinosa surrendered to Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on August 2, a few hours after President Rodrigo Duterte demanded for his and Kerwin’s surrender within 24 hours or face a “shoot on sight” order. Kerwin remains at large.

After four days, Dela Rosa kicked out Espinosa from his official residence after the son failed to meet the deadline for him to surrender.

Espinosa returned to his hometown on August 16 and stayed at the town hall day and night for about a week before he asked for police protection.

Driven by fear for his life, the mayor had temporarily held office at the town police station from August 25 until his arrest.

According to police reports, his son has been hiding in Malaysia. (PNA)

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