After three months of massive manhunt, anti-narcotics agents of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have arrested the alleged top drug lord of Eastern Visayas, Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa.
Director General Ronald dela Rosa, PNP chief, said Espinosa was collared by a team led by Senior Supt. Albert Ignatius Ferro, head of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Just this morning at around 2 a.m., our team from Anti-Illegal Drugs Group in coordination with the Criminal Investigation Division of Abu Dhabi Police, arrested the drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. He is now under the custody of the Abu Dhabi Police,” dela Rosa said in a press briefing at Camp Crame.
“I do not know if all the documentary requirements will be done today, maybe they can now travel. If not, it will depend on the first available flight after the suspect is cleared to travel to the Philippines,” he added.
Espinosa has been the subject of an intense manhunt after his name cropped up in the drug list of President Duterte in July. Also included in the list was Kerwin’s father, Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr.
The elder Espinosa was already arrested for charges in connection with the 11.5 kilos of shabu allegedly seized inside his house and a cache of firearms confiscated after police clashed with six men identified with Espinosa also near their house in Albuera town in July this year.
Kerwin is a co-accused of his father on the case in connection with seized guns. The mayor is now detained at the Leyte Provincial Jail in Baybay City.
Allegedly, Kerwin is a top drug lord in Eastern Visayas and has been directly getting his drug supply from convicted drug lords in the National Bilibid Prisons.
He went into hiding after his father surrendered to dela Rosa in July. The last information obtained from him is that he is in Malaysia.
Dela Rosa narrated that Kerwin was tracked down by the PNP after a tip-off from overseas Filipino workers that he was spotted somewhere in Abu Dhabi.
“We received calls from the OFWs saying that he is in Abu Dhabi. Some of them even told us the building where Kerwin has been staying,” said dela Rosa.
Aftet receiving the tip-off, a team from the AIDG immediately went to Abu Dhabi and coordinated with the local police to verify the information.
The tip-off was then confirmed and it was then that Kerwin was arrested by the Abu Dhabi Police, according to dela Rosa.
The PNP Chief said Kerwin was forced to go out of his hiding place in Abu Dhabi as his papers for temporary stay in Abu Dhabi are nearing the expiration.
“He went directly to Abu Dhabi from Malaysia. He was able to do that because during that time, no arrest warrant was issued against him,” said dela Rosa.
“His stay there is limited so he went to several travel agencies there, asking for help on how his stay would be extended,” he added.
As a result, dela Rosa said some of the OFWs were able to recognize him and eventually told the PNP about it.
Dela Rosa said a police team was sent to Abu Dhabi since it would be difficult to just ask the local police to arrest Kerwin.
He admitted that the arrest warrant for Kerwin was not yet handed over to the International Police since it was just recently released by a Leyte court.
“He is not yet included in the Red Notice because the arrest warrant was just issued, that’s the reason why we sent a team there, to coordinate,” said dela Rosa.
In the meantime that the PNP is waiting for an Interpol advisory to the Abu Dhabi Police, the PNP team sought for assistance to secure the place where Kerwin was staying.
“The Abu Dhabi Police would not act on it because they are waiting for the Interpol notice,” said dela Rosa.
As soon as the Interpol Notice came, the Abu Dhabi Police proceeded to arrest Kerwin, according to dela Rosa.
It is not yet clear where Kerwin would be detained when he arrives but he is expected to be presented to a Leyte court which issued the arrest warrant.
Kerwin, however, would likely join his father at the Leyte provincial jail.
But since he is being eyed as a key witness to pin down politicians and police officials who are allegedly receiving drug money, the detention arrangement may change especially if Kerwin agrees to talk, according to police sources in Camp Crame. (AARON B. RECUENCO)