“President Duterte believes that police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido is clean,” Panelo said.
Edd Gumban/ File
‘Duterte believes Espenido is clean’
Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero, Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - February 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — 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 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 non-commissioned 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. 

JOVIE ESPENIDO
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