By Hader Glang
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
A top police official and 19 other officers were arrested Monday in relation to the killing of a mayor included on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s list of “narco-politicians”.
Rolando Espinosa, mayor of Albuera town in Leyte province, was killed alongside another inmate in his jail cell in November after officers said he shot at them during a search for illegal firearms and drugs.
A Senate probe into the case that concluded last week determined the killing was planned and aimed at trying to cover up police’s supposed links to Espinosa and his son Kerwin, a self-confessed drug dealer.
National Police chief Dir. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa told a televised press conference Monday that Superintendent Marvin Marcos and 19 other officers turned themselves in after a court issued a warrant of arrest for them.
"The warrant of arrest for murder already came out. Twenty of them already accounted at CIDG [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group] Region 8," he said.
Kerwin had earlier told a Senate inquiry into the illegal drug trade that Marcos, who previously headed CIDG Region 8, was on his payroll -- an allegation denied by the officer.
The complaints against the 20 arrested officers include multiple murder, robbery, malicious procurement of search warrant, perjury and planting of evidence.
Since Duterte’s inauguration June 30 last year, an anti-drugs drive has seen more than 7,000 people killed over suspected links to the illegal trade -- with over 60 percent of the deaths attributed to vigilante-style killings and the remainder to police operations, according to national police data.
The drive was suspended Jan. 30 following widespread criticisms of alleged abuses under the campaign, but re-launched last week.