THE alleged right-hand man of suspected drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa died after he was shot by a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 agent during a buy-bust in Barangay Hipodromo, Cebu City yesterday afternoon.
PDEA 7 Director Yogi Filemon Ruiz said his men fired at Julito Prak, after the latter tried to shoot them.
Prak, who was shot in the chest, was rushed to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, where he was declared dead on arrival.
Allegedly seized from Prak were 50 grams of white crystals believed to be shabu worth P360,000.
PDEA 7 agents invited Prak’s son for questioning.
“Prak was in charge of hiding Kerwin’s drug stocks,” said Ruiz in a phone interview.
Prak and Kerwin, he said, grew up together in Hipodromo.
Kerwin allegedly controls the drug trade in Eastern Visayas.
According to PDEA 7’s intelligence report, Prak distributed shabu in Hipodromo and in the neighboring barangays of Mabolo and Carreta.
“He hired other people to sell the shabu,” said Ruiz in Cebuano.
At 5:30 p.m., a poseur-buyer was inside the suspect’s house to buy drugs.
After the transaction was completed, the agent signaled to the other agents outside to enter the house.
One of the agents shot Prak after he allegedly pulled out his .38 long-barreled revolver.
Ruiz said Prak was a known neighborhood toughie and his customers came from all walks of life.
In a related development, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña challenged the police to arrest Kerwin, who is believed to be in Cebu, and to name his police protectors.
If they do this, he will reconsider his decision to withdraw his support from the Philippine National Police, Osmeña said in his news conference yesterday before leaving for the US for a medical checkup.
Until then, the mayor said he will support PDEA 7.
Meanwhile, the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) is validating reports that Kerwin is in Cebu.
“I directly gave instructions to the chief to specifically monitor the area where the Espinosas’ relatives are here in Cebu,” said CCPO Director Joel Doria.
Security in the area
The Espinosas’ ancestral house is in Sitio Cahipa, Hipodromo.
Emma, the sister-in-law of Kerwin’s father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Sr., earlier expressed her concern that strange persons have been dropping by their house.
“Precisely the point why we’re putting security in the area not only to protect them but to protect the whole Cebu City,” Doria said in Tagalog.
“Of course, they have nothing to fear if they’re not involved in illegal drugs because we only go after those who are,” he said in Tagalog.
He said he instructed his men to alert him if they have any sightings of Kerwin.
When asked about the policemen coddling Kerwin here in Cebu, Doria said they have yet to verify reports.
In a radio dyLA report last Wednesday, Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot, who was named by President Rodrigo Duterte as a police general who coddled drug lords, denied newspaper reports linking him to Kerwin.
Loot used to serve as chief of the Regional Anti-Narcotics Unit of the Police Regional Office 7 for two years.
Loot also denied that Kerwin was made a police asset of his unit and that the latter recycled drugs confiscated by operatives.
“I don’t know Kerwin Espinosa from Adam. Wala man gani ko kaila anang bataa (I don’t know him),” Loot said.
National Bureau of Investigation 7 Director Atty. Patricio Bernales Jr., for his part, said police have called them to verify reports that Kerwin has been sighted here and that he has been sending “surrender feelers.”
Bernales told Sun.Star Cebu, said that his operatives have not seen the younger Espinosa.
“Maybe he will surrender in Manila,” he said.
In an earlier interview, PDEA 7 Director Ruiz said Kerwin was once based in Central Visayas until Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz took over the illegal drug trade.
In March 2010, Kerwin and two of Diaz’s brothers, Noel and Reynaldo, were arrested by CCPO operatives under then CCPO director Patrocinio Comendador and Chief Insp. George Ylanan of the Investigation and Detective Management Branch.