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Another Philippine mayor accused of drug crimes by Duterte is killed

Rolando Espinosa Sr., mayor of Albuera Township, was escorted by officers following his arrest in the Philippines in October.
Rolando Espinosa Sr., mayor of Albuera Township, was escorted by officers following his arrest in the Philippines in October. ROBERT DEJON/European Pressphoto Agency/file

MANILA — A Philippine mayor who had been accused of drug trafficking by President Rodrigo Duterte was shot and killed by police officers in his jail cell Saturday, the police said.

The mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, a town in Leyte province in central Philippines, had been arrested in October, several weeks after Duterte included him in a list of about 150 Philippine officials whom he said were involved in narcotics. Espinosa, who had denied any wrongdoing, is the second politician on the list to have been killed by police officers in a little more than a week.

The Leyte provincial police said Saturday that Espinosa and his cellmate, identified as Raul Yap, had been killed in a “firefight” with police officers, who woke them at dawn while searching their cell. The provincial police chief, Juvy Espinido, told a Manila radio station that both men had “resisted” the police but said he could not provide further details.

Later, the police said they had recovered two handguns from the jail cell. Bags containing what was believed to be methamphetamine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia were also found inside the cell, the police said.


Calls to spokesmen for the national police in Manila were not returned.

Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana, a member of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, an independent government body, said the deaths “raise serious questions on the responsibility of the state to protect persons deprived of liberty, especially in relation to the primordial right to live of every human being.”

Pimentel-Gana called on the police to “hold the people responsible for the deaths accountable.”

Espinosa died just eight days after Samsudin Dimaukom, another mayor accused of drug crimes by Duterte, was killed by police officers in the southern Philippines. Dimaukom, who also denied being involved in narcotics, was gunned down at a police checkpoint along with nine men traveling with him; the police said people in Dimaukom’s party had fired on officers.


Since taking office in June, Duterte has embarked on a bloody campaign against drugs — particularly shabu, a cheap form of methamphetamine — that has left about 2,000 people dead, some killed by police officers and others by vigilantes. Human rights groups and Western governments have criticized the campaign, but it has been popular in the Philippines.

In August, Duterte read on television his list of officials allegedly involved in drugs, warning them to surrender to the authorities. He offered no evidence of their guilt and later said some names might have been put on the list by mistake.

Espinosa, who was accused by Duterte along with his son, Kerwin Espinosa, turned himself in to the police in Manila, while his son went into hiding. The son has since been detained in Abu Dhabi, and Philippine officials said they were seeking to have him returned.

While Rolando Espinosa was in detention, the police raided his home and killed six of his bodyguards. They said they had found about 24 pounds of shabu on the property. Nevertheless, he was later freed, only to be arrested again in October and charged with illegal possession of drugs and firearms.

A statement Saturday from the office of Duterte’s communications secretary, Martin Andanar, called Espinosa’s death “unfortunate.”