At least 80 people allegely involved in Kerwin Espinosa Jr.'s syndicate, including a senator, would be charged in the coming days, said Philippine police. Image Credit: Contributed photo

Dubai: Rolando "Kerwin" Espinosa is the son of Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr of Albuera town, Leyte province in eastern Philippines. 

The younger Espinosa is a suspected drug lord in central Philippines. He was set to surrender in early August to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.

But instead of surrendering, Kerwin had gone into hiding.

While it is unclear when Kerwin arrived in the UAE capital and who facilitated his travel, authorities here are probing the people involved in helping him in Abu Dhabi.

His father, the Albuera town mayor, surrendered to dela Rosa on August 2. That was the same day when six of the Espinosas’ bodyguards were killed following a shoot-out with police.

The deadly encounter took place as authorities mounted a stake out on the residence of the Espinosas in Leyte.

Bigger boss

Details of Espinosas' lifestyle are just emerging. Both father and son allegedly operated a “family-owned” illegal drugs trade in central Philippines. 

Prior to the August 2 encounter, Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, the regional police director, said that armed men guarding the gates of Espinosa’s house fired at policemen at around 5.30am.

The clash was one of the bloodiest encounters between law enforcers and suspected bodyguards of drug dealers since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his war against drugs.

Six dead in raid on Mayor's house

Police 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 from Manila, from a drug dealer who was able to run his drug empire despite being jailed at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa, in southern Metro Manila.

On August 21, Kerwin’s father Rolando Sr. revealed that his son reports to a "bigger boss" other than police officials. Albuera town police head Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido declined to identify who Kerwin's "bigger boss" was.

Kerwin reportedly went to a hospital in Cebu City to visit his father before he flew out of the Philippines. A Bureau of Immigration staff told Philippine media that Kerwin left the country via Kuala Lumpur.

It is understood that the Philippine police seek to repatriate Espinosa so he could face charges in the Philippines. 

Kerwin could be just the tip of the iceberg, though, as most Filipinos had become desperate for ways to curb the lingering drug menace.

Eradicating drugs was the single-biggest campaign issue that gave President Rodrigo Duterte a landslide victory in the May 2016 elections.

Name-and-shame drive

Duterte had since widened his anti-drugs campaign by naming five police generals allegedly involved in illegal drugs trade: 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.

On October 9, charges were filed against at least 22 members of the police force in Eastern Visayas for their involvement in the drug syndicate allegedly led by Kerwin Espinosa, known as one of the region’s biggest drug lords.

A police officer investigating government officials’ link with the syndicate said the policemen had been accused of receiving payoffs to protect Kerwin’s drug syndicate, according to Chief Insp. Jove Espenido, chief of police of Albuera town, who led the probe into Kerwin’s syndicate.