A file picture dated 05 October 2016 shows detained Filipino Rolando Espinosa, mayor of Albuera Township, escorted by officers following his arrest in Albuera
A file picture dated 05 October 2016 shows detained Filipino Rolando Espinosa, mayor of Albuera Township, escorted by officers following his arrest in Albuera ROBERT DEJON

Mayor accused of drug crimes killed in jail shootout

A MAYOR who was detained as part of the anti-drugs crackdown in the Philippines has been shot dead in his jail cell.

Police allege the mayor of Albuera town, Rolando Espinosa (pictured), was involved in a fire fight with officers trying to search his cell for weapons and drugs.

He is the second official to be slain in President Rodrigo Duterte's anti-drugs drive, in which at least 3000 people have been killed by police or vigilante groups since he took office in June.

Most have been low-level drug dealers and users, but police said "high-value targets", including mayors and drug lords, would be their next target in a new phase of the crackdown that was launched in late October.

Mr Espinosa handed himself in to police after he was implicated by Mr Duterte for narcotics.

The president had listed the names of around 150 officials in August, including police officers and members of local government and judiciary, who he said, - without providing evidence - were involved in the illegal drugs trade. He was briefly released but was jailed at Baybay, Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail, on 5 October on drug possession charges.

Acting on a warrant yesterday, a police effort to search his cell for weapons and drugs was met with gunfire from the former mayor and another inmate, police said. "He fired on the raiding team. The raiding team fired back and this led to the mayor's death," Chief Inspector Leo Laraga of the regional police told AFP news agency.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group claimed they recovered a loaded pistol, suspected methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia from Espinosa's cell. Yap's cell was also found to contain a loaded pistol, methamphetamine and cannabis.

Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People's Lawyers, criticised the police's version of events and, saying they were "too contrived". He told local broadcaster TV5: "A search warrant in a government prison facility is unnecessary and appears to be a flaccid attempt to make the apparent rubout 'legal'," adding: "Such acts ... insult ordinary common sense ... There is going to be a lot of explaining to do."

In addition, an anti-crime watchdog has called for an investigation of the circumstances of the killings, wondering how the mayor and the other inmate got hold of guns and what prompted them to clash with police while in detention.

Eastern Visayas Regional Police Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar said: "As a matter of procedure, this incident will undergo investigation to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident."



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