Año said that Espenido, who has been relieved as deputy director for operations of the Bacolod City police, will have to go through the process, just like over 350 other police officials in the list, despite a Palace statement saying that he is clean.
Geremy Pintolo/ File
No special treatment for Espenido – Año
Romina Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido will still have to go through the adjudication process, despite Malacañang’s vouching for the controversial police official who was allegedly included in the government’s narco list.

Año said that Espenido, who has been relieved as deputy director for operations of the Bacolod City police, will have to go through the process, just like over 350 other police officials in the list, despite a Palace statement saying that he is clean.

The head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) acknowledged that the Palace statement is a big boost for Espenido, as it will be President Duterte who will ultimately decide who gets taken off the narco list.

“Of course you still need to go through the process. So that when the time comes, for example, that a different administration revives the issue, it can be said that the case went through a process and not just because the President said so,” Año said in Filipino in an interview with dzBB.

It was Año who confirmed that Espenido – who was involved in controversial anti-illegal drugs operations that led to the deaths of Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa – was on the narco list.

In deciding to publicly reveal Espenido’s inclusion in the list, Año noted that the police official was too controversial a figure, and that Espenido himself wanted confirmation on his inclusion in the narco list.

Año said that Espenido’s “accomplishments” in the drug war speak volumes, and that he wants to give the benefit of the doubt to the police official.

He vouched for the integrity of the narco list, saying that information was based on four agencies, including the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, Inteligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

The PNP is looking to finish adjudication of more than 300 police officers in a month as part of its internal cleansing efforts against rogue cops.

Is he or isn’t he?

Despite Año’s declaration, the PNP has officially kept mum on the matter.

When asked Saturday if Espenido, the government’s “poster boy” on illegal drugs, was truly included in the narco list, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa answered with “Happy Valentines.”

Gamboa was in Iloilo City to visit the wake of Police Capt. Efren Espanto Jr., who was killed during an encounter with members of the New People’s Army in Iloilo on Feb. 12.

Before the interview started, Gamboa said in jest that he won’t answer questions related to Espenido.

When pressed why, a smiling Gamboa said, “Waay ko nabal-an (I don’t have any knowledge).”

But when Gamboa was asked about his knowledge of the so-called list, he gamely answered that he asked the President to give the PNP a chance to evaluate and validate their own people.

“So out of the PRRD list, we extracted active members of the PNP. That’s why we have 357,” he said.

Gamboa added, “But then again, they are presumed innocent.”

The nation’s top cop said he already second-guessed that people might ask why didn’t they file charges against personnel on the so-called narco list.

“Because the information derived, that’s why they are on the list, is not enough to stand in court or even in administrative proceedings,” he said.

Given the scenario, Gamboa said two things would happen: either they will be cleared because the information is not true; or the information is true and that’s why they need to exert effort to build cases against them.

By case build-up, he explained that they will gather evidence so that they could file cases against them in court.

Earlier, the hierarchy of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) said they were not told why Espenido was relieved and subsequently reassigned to the Office of the Chief PNP.

Aside from Espenido, also relieved from the PRO-6 was Lt. Col. Mannan Muarip, chief of the Regional Headquarters Support Unit 6 (RHSU-6) based in Camp Martin Delgado, Iloilo.

Espenido and Muarip were among 15 police officials relieved by the national headquarters on Feb. 5.

Fake news?

The PNP said yesterday that drug syndicates are peddling fake news on social media to discredit the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

This was revealed by Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesman, who said members of drug syndicates are using internet trolls using fake accounts to spread misinformation and lies about police officers, especially those involved in anti-drug operations.

“Drug syndicates make up fake news against our police officers to destroy their names and derail their careers,” Banac said in an interview over dzBB.

Banac did not give details on how they arrived at the conclusion that drug traffickers are also using social media platforms like Facebook to discredit the police.

He said they will not confirm or deny Espenido’s status while the adjudication process of those in the narco list is ongoing.

“In respecting the privacy and presumption of innocence of each one in the list, we are not yet confirming anything,” he said.

In a text message to reporters, Espenido said that he will only respond to the issue once he secures a clearance to talk to media from PNP chief Gamboa. – With Jennifer Rendon, Emmanuel Tupas

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