The police officer who led the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) team that raided the cell of slain Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa tagged actor-turned-Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez in the so-called “Espinosa drug group” Thursday.
Speaking before the Senate public order committee, Chief Inspector Leo Laraga said the CIDG had to apply for a search warrant in Samar province because there were some local politicians in Leyte involved in the drug operations of Espinosa.
“[May] mga personality na involved doon sa Espinosa drug group mismo galing din ito sa region na — nabanggit na rin ito ni late Mayor Espinosa regarding doon sa mga politiko na involved and at the same time, ‘yung mga nasa PNP (Philippine National Police),” Laraga said.
“‘Yung sa Baybay City is involved. 'Yung vice mayor ng Baybay City, allegedly 'yung governor ng Leyte, the mayor of Ormoc City, and the congressman of the third district of Leyte,” Laraga said, at first refusing to disclose the names of the said politicians holding those positions.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III then insisted that Laraga name the politicians, saying the investigation is in aid of legislation.
Laraga said he was referring to Baybay Vice Mayor Mike Cari, Rep. Vicente Veloso, Leyte Governor Leopoldo Petilla, and Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez.
Laraga said he heard the said names “personally” from Albuera Municipal Police chief Inspector Jovie Espenido during the case conference.
“Sinabi niya 'yun personally 'yung mga pangalan na sinabi ko na binanggit ni Mayor [Espinosa],” Laraga said.
Veloso has already denied his alleged link to the illegal drug trade in the province.
"I could not have influenced or protected people I never met... I had neither the opportunity nor the need to meet Kerwin Espinosa or his witnesses," Veloso said in a Facebook post, referring to Mayor Espinosa’s son, Kerwin.
Governor Petilla meanwhile had appealed for truth to prevail.
"Kung sinasabi na protektor ako, I don't think that is true. That is absurd," Petilla said.
Gomez, for his part, denied the allegation and said "that is ridiculous and outright laughable."
In a text message Gomez sent to PEP on Thursday, he said, "I will not dignify that with an answer. Huwag nila akong isama sa circus nila."
Espinosa and drug suspect Raul Yap were killed in an alleged shootout inside the Baybay City Provincial Jail on November 5.
According to operatives of the CIDG, the mayor fired at them first.
The CIDG claims the shootout happened when operatives tried to serve a search warrant on the mayor for possession of drugs and a firearm inside the jail.