Manila: Six bodyguards of a mayor were killed following a shoot-out with police in Leyte province early morning on Wednesday as President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against drugs takes a hard stand against syndicates.

Duterte had said on Tuesday that he had identified at least 27 local executives involved in the drugs trade. On the same day, Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, had given himself up to authorities, led by national police Director General Rolando dela Rosa, after he was identified by the President as one of the drug lords in Eastern Visayas region.

Espinosa’s son, Kerwin, who was said to be the key person involved in the drug trade in Eastern Visayas, had refused to surrender and had evaded authorities. The latter’s men were neutralised in a police operation last week.

On Wednesday morning, the encounter in Leyte took place as authorities mounted a stake out on the residence of the Espinosas in Leyte.

According to regional police director, Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, armed men posted at the gates of Espinosa’s house fired at policemen at around 5.30am.

The clash had so far been the bloodiest single encounter between law enforcers and suspected minions of drug dealers since Duterte launched his war against drugs earlier last month. Although the all-out drive against suspected illegal substance peddlers had netted close to 300 suspects, the incident marks the first time that the perpetrators fought back in large force.

Beltejar said the slain suspects were armed with high powered weapons that were difficult to acquire because of their high price. A total 13 assorted long firearms, as well as four pistols and rifle grenades were recovered by authorities.

Dela Rosa had said that Espinosa’s group was sourcing the drugs they were selling from a certain Peter Co, which had been able to operate his drug empire despite being jailed at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa, southern Metro Manila.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that other than Espinosa, Duterte will soon reveal the names of at least 27 local executives involved in illegal drug activities.

“The President has the list and will soon announce it to the public,” Abella said in a television interview.

Earlier, presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo described the names contained in the list as “shocking.”

Duterte last month had named five police generals involved in illegal drugs trade.

These five generals are national police Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr.; former National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Joel Pagdilao; Western Visayas regional director, Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz; Quezon City Police District director, Chief Superintendent Edgardo Tinio; and retired police general Vicente “Vic” Loot.

The drive against illegal drugs is one of the major thrusts of the Duterte administration.