Disgraced mayor Rolando Espinosa who was jailed on drug offences was shot dead in his prison cell after a reported gun battle with Philippines police. The former mayor of Albuera in Leyte and a fellow inmate Raul Yap are said to have opened fire as security officials searched for guns and drugs during a raid on Saturday (5 November).
"He fired on the raiding team. The raiding team fired back and this led to the mayor's death," Chief Inspector Leo Laraga of the regional police told AFP news agency.
Espinosa is the second local government executive on Duterte's "narco-list" killed during police operations, according to Reuters.
During the raid on Saturday, a team from the criminal investigation and detection group had issued a search warrant against Espinosa and Yap. A shootout in the cell followed and after the two prisoners were killed, police found a .45 caliber pistol and a .38 Super pistol in the cell.
"Detectives of Northern Leyte CIDG8 led by PCI Leo Laraga together with RMU8 as participating unit implemented two search warrants inside the Sub-Provincial jail at Brgy. Hipusngo, Baybay City, Leyte in which a firefight ensued between the suspects (subject of the search warrant) and the CIDG8 operatives that resulted [in] the [deaths] of the said suspects namely: Rolando Espinosa and Raul Yap," the police report said.
Police officials also found suspected methamphetamine in the prison cell. Espinosa's death was described as "unfortunate" by the presidential palace. An investigation is being carried out as to how Espinosa and his cellmate managed to obtain guns. There is possible collusion between guards and inmates to get guns and drugs into the jail, according to Al Jazeera.
"As a matter of procedure, this incident will undergo investigation to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident," Eastern Visayas Regional Police Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar said.
The former mayor handed himself in to the authorities after a televised event in which President Duterte asked Espinosa and his son, Kerwin, to surrender over their alleged involvement in the narcotics trade.
Espinosa was arrested on 5 October on charges of illegal drug possession. He denied any involvement but claimed that his son was selling "shabu" methamphetamine, obtained from a convicted Chinese drug trader, according to Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
Kerwin was arrested in September by police in Abu Dhabi. He is said to be one the most powerful illegal drug operators in Philippines' Eastern Visayas region.