Suspected drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. arrived shortly before 4:00 a.m. on Friday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) aboard Philippine Airlines Flight PR 657 from Abu Dhabi.
He had been living as a fugitive in the capital of the United Arab Emirates for some months before being arrested by a team of anti-illegal drugs officers from the Philippines in coordination with the police from the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), personally lead a team of heavily-armed members of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) in fetching Espinosa from the plane.
Espinosa was handcuffed and clad in a black-and-orange shirt worn over cream-colored shorts. The AIDG team made him wear a bulletproof vest.
With Espinosa on the flight was another AIDG team led by Chief Supt. Albert Ferro.
The PNP considers Espinosa precious cargo because of the possibility of his turning state witness to pin down high-profile personalities involved in the country’s illegal drug trade.
At least an hour before Espinosa arrived, the Philippine National Police (PNP) had already tightened security at NAIA Terminal 3.
De la Rosa also arrived early to check on the security put in place there by various PNP units, including the PNP Aviation Security Group, headed by Chief Supt. Mao Aplasca.
Kerwin is the son of Rolando Espinosa Sr., former mayor of Albuera town in Leyte, whom President Rodrigo Duterte named last August as among local government officials involved in the illegal drugs trade.
The son went into hiding shortly after that.
But police were able to arrest the elder Espinosa last October 4, on charges of possession of illegal drugs and firearms.
The former mayor, who was up at the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City, agreed to cooperate with authorities. Hoping to become a state witness, he gave Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, chief of the Albuera Municipal Police Office, two notebooks – the so-called pink and blue books – containing the names of people involved in illegal drugs and their protectors.
On Nov. 5, the elder Espinosa was killed in jail in an alleged shootout with a team of officers from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Eastern Visayas, who were about to serve him a search warrant, along with another inmate, Raul Yap.
In a hearing conducted by the Senate, Chief Insp. Leo Laraga, who led the CIDG team, admitted that it was he who shot the former mayor.
The Senate Committee on Justice, headed by Sen. Richard Gordon, suspected that Espinosa’s killing was premeditated and not at all the result of a shootout.
De la Rosa, who apologized for his shortcoming in protecting the elder Espinosa, vowed to ensure that the son would remain alive to tell his story.
The younger Espinosa would be detained under tight security in Camp Crame, headquarters of the PNP, in Quezon City. /atm