‘Duterte be­lieves Espenido is clean’

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - – Christina Mendez, Rom­ina Cabr­era, Paolo Romero

Pres­i­dent Duterte is stand­ing by em­bat­tled po­lice Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, who was re­port­edly placed in the drug list of the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP).

Duterte has ab­solved Espenido of any wrong­do­ing, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Sal­vador Panelo said in a state­ment last night.

“Pres­i­dent Duterte be­lieves that po­lice Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido is clean,” Panelo said. The Palace of­fi­cial ex­pressed

be­lief that Espenido may have been a vic­tim of black pro­pa­ganda, not­ing how he had been in­stru­men­tal in the ad­min­is­tra­tion's cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs.

“There ap­pears to be a black pro­pa­ganda waged against Lt. Col. Espenido to be­smirch the rep­u­ta­tion of the lat­ter in the eyes of PRRD and the Filipino na­tion, and to de­rail his un­re­lent­ing cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs,” Panelo said.

“Lt. Col. Espenido con­tin­ues to en­joy the trust and con­fi­dence of the Pres­i­dent. PRRD be­lieves that the re­ports of his al­leged in­volve­ment in pro­hib­ited drugs are un­true,” Panelo added.

Espenido, one of the top po­lice of­fi­cials in­volved in the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s war against il­le­gal drugs, has been im­pli­cated in the op­er­a­tions of il­le­gal drug syn­di­cates.

The po­lice of­fi­cial was also re­cently re­lieved as deputy di­rec­tor for op­er­a­tions of the Bacolod City Po­lice.

Espenido was the po­lice chief of Oza­miz City when the bloody anti-drug op­er­a­tion in July 2017 was launched against mem­bers of the Paro­jinog fam­ily led by mayor Rey­naldo Paro­jinog, who had been sus­pected as a top drug lord.

Mayor Paro­jinog, his wife Su­san, brother board mem­ber Oc­tavio Paro­jinog Jr. and sis­ter Mona were killed in al­leged shootouts with the po­lice.

Espenido was also the po­lice chief of Al­buera, Leyte when its mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed in­side his de­ten­tion cell in Novem­ber 2016.

The PNP lead­er­ship had sought a one-month dead­line to validate the sup­posed in­volve­ment of 357 cops in the nar­cotics trade.

PNP chief Gen. Archie Gam­boa is still silent on the iden­ti­ties of the cops in­cluded in the nar­col­ist of Mala­cañang as he said they still en­joy pre­sump­tion of in­no­cence.

The of­fi­cial ad­ju­di­ca­tion started on Thurs­day and the PNP has been given a month to fin­ish the process.

Gam­boa kept mum on the names even as In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ed­uardo Año con­firmed that Espenido is in­cluded in the drug list.

Gam­boa said he will nei­ther con­firm or deny this be­cause he promised con­fi­den­tial­ity to the of­fi­cials in­cluded in the list.

De­spite Espenido’s sup­posed in­clu­sion in the narco list, PNP spokesman Brgi. Gen. Bernard Banac said this should not be an ob­sta­cle for the po­lice force.

Sen. Pan­filo Lac­son said yes­ter­day that he was sur­prised by the in­clu­sion of Espenido in Duterte’s drug watch list, say­ing he knew the con­tro­ver­sial of­fi­cer as an upright man when he was a sub­or­di­nate at the de­funct Pres­i­den­tial Anti-Or­ga­nized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF).

“I re­mem­ber then PO1 Espenido dur­ing our PAOCTF days as some­one who con­sis­tently per­formed his duty with in­tegrity and ded­i­ca­tion. At least that was how I knew him in the many in­stances that he faced those chal­lenges. But that time, he was just a non­com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer at the bot­tom of the salary grade of po­lice per­son­nel. Ris­ing from the ranks, he held sev­eral po­si­tions of higher au­thor­ity un­til his re­lief re­cently,” Lac­son said.

“I have al­ways be­lieved that the real test of char­ac­ter of pub­lic of­fi­cials like PLt. Col. Jovie Espenido is power or money. Give them the op­por­tu­nity to lay their hands on ei­ther one or both and they will re­veal who they re­ally are,” he said.

He said he sent Espenido a text mes­sage yes­ter­day morn­ing ask­ing him “what hap­pened?” but his for­mer sub­or­di­nate has yet to re­ply, which was un­usual since the of­fi­cial would reg­u­larly send him Bi­ble pas­sages in the morn­ing.

“Espenido’s case, if true, could be one big rea­son why the war against il­le­gal drugs is fail­ing,” Lac­son said.

He ex­pressed hope Espenido could ac­quit him­self and con­vinc­ingly dis­prove the se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tion against him.


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