Former Pangasinan congressman Amado Espino Jr. yesterday narrowly survived an ambush by unidentified gunmen as he was passing through San Carlos City in his home province.
Espino, who was wounded in the attack, was traveling in a Black Toyota Land Cruiser, escorted by a Toyota Innova, when the gunmen sprayed his vehicle with bullets, reported Rappler. The assailants, riding in a red Hyundai hatchback and a blue Ford Everest, fled after the attack to the neighboring town of Malasiqui, also in Pangasinan.
A member of Espino’s police escort, Staff Sergeant Richard Esguerra, was killed on the spot during the attack, while four of the former lawmaker’s aides, including two drivers, were also wounded in the attack.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) have yet to track down any of the men involved or establish a motive.
The former governor is in “stable condition” and recovering at the Blessed Family Doctors General Hospital in San Carlos City, according to ABS-CBN News. Espino’s wounded driver, Aga Cuison, brought the congressman to the hospital after the attack, reported the Philippine Star.
Senator Richard Gordon condemned the attack on Twitter yesterday.
“This is completely unacceptable in this day and age, yet it happens with impunity,” he wrote. “I call on PNP Chief Albayalde to mobilize all police forces to track down the killers and bring them to justice.”
During his tenure as Pangasinan’s fifth district representative, Espino was among the officials erroneously included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called drug matrix, Rappler reported. Duterte alleged that Espino was working with Senator Leila de Lima, and that he benefitted from the drug trade scandal in the New Bilibid Prison in September 2016.
The scandal involved two convicted top drug lords in the country who allegedly continue to run their drug rings from prison, with the help of government officials including then Justice Secretary de Lima, and initially, Espino.
The drug charges against de Lima, who has been in jail awaiting trial for more than two and a half years, are widely believed to be politically motivated.
Duterte has since issued a public apology to Espino for being “negligent in counterchecking” the list before releasing it to the public. Duterte also said that the “drug matrix” list was re-evaluated four times, but he did not find any links to Espino and illegal drugs.