Espenido was previously involved in high-profile drug operations that left 2 town mayors dead.
A town mayor from the island of Mindanao who was named by President Rodrigo Duterte as one of the local politicians linked to the drug trade was killed on Friday while under police custody for an unrelated assault case in the central Philippines.
Mayor David Navarro of Clarin, Misamis Occidental was reportedly killed by masked men with high-powered firearms, as he was transported by police officers to the prosecutor’s office in Cebu City.
Navarro is the 13th town or city mayor killed in the country by either police or unknown assailants since Duterte took office on June 30, 2016.
Navarro was reportedly wearing a bullet-proof vest and was guarded by police officers inside a patrol car when the attacked happened.
Police Maj Eduardo Sanchez, a station chief in Cebu, told reporters at the crime scene that the officers were caught off-guard in the attack.
Police officer Carlo Balasoto, meanwhile, said that there were at least 10 gunmen on board a white van that blocked the patrol car transporting the mayor.
Balasoto said the attackers then ordered him to lie down on the road, as they pulled Navarro out of the car and shot him at close range.
The Clarin police chief, who accompanied Navarro, was also wounded in the attack along with another police escort, a family representative and an aide of the mayor, reports said.
Princess Navarro, sister of the slain mayor, who was also present during the attack told reporters in Cebu that she tried to shield her brother, but the attackers forcibly grabbed him out of the vehicle.
“Is there any justice? If I demand for justice, will they give it,” she said as she spoke to the reporters, her shirt still stained with blood.
On Thursday, Navarro was detained by Cebu police after he was accused of beating up a therapist inside a massage centre in the country’s second-largest metropolitan city the previous night. The beating incident on Wednesday night was caught on a close-circuit camera.
Navarro was in Cebu to attend a summit of town and city mayors from Mindanao.
On Thursday night, Navarro had requested police to take him to the hospital after complaining of severe headache, according to Cebu Daily News. His request was rejected by the police.
Navarro had denied the allegations and presented himself to the police to clear his name.
In May 2017, the police reportedly stripped Navarro of the powers over the officers in his town because of “intelligence information that they are involved in the illegal drugs trade”, PNA said.
Since Duterte assumed the presidency in mid-2016, some 6,660 people have been reported killed during drug-related police operations, according to a June 2019 report published by the Philippine National Police.
Human rights advocates, however, say the number could be as high as 27,000 as of June 2019.
In July, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved a resolution seeking action on Duterte’s drug war.