ROLAN “Kerwin” Espinosa is an alleged drug lord who was once based in Central Visayas until Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz took over the illegal drug trade in the region.

This is how Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 Regional Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz described the son of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.

“He’s Jaguar’s counterpart but he was based here (in Central Visayas) before. He saw that there was a market there. They then focused their illegal business there,” Ruiz said, referring to Eastern and Western Visayas.

He said that the younger Espinosa once told government operatives that he “won’t be caught alive.”

Shoot on sight if mosukol. Atong information, musukol gyud na siyang bataa. Di magpadakop (He’ll be shot on sight if he resists. Based on our information, he’ll probably resist. He doesn’t want to get caught),” Ruiz said.

Six persons were killed in a shootout between the police and bodyguards of Mayor Espinosa in Barangay Binulho, Albuera, Leyte yesterday. The mayor himself has surrendered, but his son continued to defy President Rodrigo Duterte’s deadline for him to yield.

Caught in 2010

Director Ruiz dubbed the younger Espinosa as a drug lord at the same level as Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz, who supposedly controls the illegal drug trade in Regions 6 and 8.

He is also armed and dangerous, Ruiz said.

According to the regional director, Espinosa sourced his drugs from Peter Co, one of the Chinese triad that operates the illegal drug industry in the country who is currently jailed in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Espinosa was arrested together with two of Diaz’s brothers, Noel and Reynaldo, last March 2010 by operatives of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) under the then city director Patrocinio Comendador and Chief Insp. George Ylanan of the Investigation and Detective Management Branch.

His assets and properties were already endorsed to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), according to Ruiz.

The three were tagged as major players of “the Diaz Group” a syndicate of big-time drug peddlers in Cebu before.

Now, he heads his own syndicate called “the Espinosa Criminal Group,” according to the official Facebook page of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Southern Leyte.

Espinosa and Diaz’s names also surfaced as the alleged masterminds in the assassination of Cebu City council candidate Cresostomo “Tata Negro” Llaguno last May 2010, reportedly over disputes in the illegal drug trade.

Diaz was killed in Las Piñas City last June 17 by operatives from Las Piñas and Cebu.

Top target

The younger Espinosa “is one of the top 10 high-value targets in our anti-drugs campaign in PDEA Region 7 and 8,” Ruiz added.

Ruiz showed Espinosa’s picture to reporters before the drug lord’s nose lift but said that he would still recognize the man. Ruiz was still an agent when the younger Espinosa’s name rang through the underground drug network.

Emma Espinosa, 60, sister-in-law of the older Espinosa, said in a Balitang Bisdak report that the two were generous to their relatives.

However, she fears for their safety. She has seen strange persons dropping by their house. She takes care of the Espinosas’ ancestral house in Sitio Cahipa, Barangay Hipodromo, Cebu City.

Emma said that both father and son had not visited the house ever since the two moved to Albuera, Leyte.

Wala, dugay na lagi kaayo. Wala gani mi kita. Dugay naman na siya wala diri gud, didto ra gyod na sila (It has been a long time since they’ve been here. We haven’t seen them. They just stayed there),” she said.

She pleaded not to get dragged into the matter, saying she had no idea her relatives may be involved in drugs.

‘Not an asset’

Hipodromo Barangay Captain Petronil C. Fat, in a Dyla report, said that he had seen Espinosa grow up.

Wala man nay record nang bataa. Pero barkadista, daghang alalay (He had no criminal record. But he had a lot of friends and assistants),” Fat said.

It was only during the time that Espinosa, 30, was caught six years ago that the barangay captain knew that he was being linked to drugs.

When his grandmother died, Fat said, Espinosa requested the jail to let him attend the wake.

He said that the younger Espinosa was born in Hipodromo.

In a Dyla report, Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot also denied newspaper reports that linked him to Espinosa.

Loot used to serve as chief of the Regional Anti-Narcotics Unit of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7, a post where he stayed for two years.

Loot also denied that Espinosa was made a police asset of his unit and was the one who recycled the drugs confiscated by operatives.