President Rodrigo Duterte pins a medal on Ozamiz City police chief Jovie Espenido during the 116th anniversary of the police service at Camp Crame. The STAR/Krizjohn Rosales 

Palace says Duterte won't allow Espenido to be harmed
Alexis Romero ( - February 20, 2020 - 5:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang Thursday assured Police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido of protection after the police official - a poster boy of President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial war on illegal drugs - said he could be targeted by drug lords and even the government.

Espenido previously said the "government" could kill him due to his inclusion in the list of police officials suspected to be involved in illegal drugs trade. He has also claimed that drug lords who were affected by his anti-drug operations may also be planning to assassinate him.

"If that is the fear of (Lt.) Col. Espenido, then we cannot stop him from entertaining such apprehension. But the president will not allow anyone to be hurt or to be harmed outside of what is allowed by law," presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said at a press briefing in Malacañang.  

"Outside of legal processes, or methods sanctioned by law. If Col. Espenido would want to ask for any protective measure from the government, then he can so request," he added.

Espenido has denied involvement in the narcotics trade and has expressed suspicion that the information about his alleged ties with illicit drugs were fabricated by "greedy" politicians who had clashed with him. Duterte has vouched for Espenido's integrity and has expressed belief that there is a black propaganda intended to discredit the police official. Malacañang, however, clarified this week that Duterte's view on Espenido would change if there is credible evidence linking the police official to illegal drugs.

Panelo said it would be up to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to decide whether to release evidence on the alleged involvement of Espenido with the narcotics trade. He also declined to comment on the PNP's plan to probe Espenido for allegedly violating a gag order on his inclusion in the drug watchlist.

"The president does not meddle with their job. They should do their work. They cannot be relying on the president’s instruction on what to do.

"Now with respect to the gag order, according to (PNP chief) Gen. (Archie) Gamboa he will confront it, meaning he will investigate whether he violated the gag order or not," he added.

Panelo said Duterte has not received information that would prove that Espenido is into illegal drugs.

"He (Espenido) enjoys the trust and confidence of the president," he said.

Espenido gained prominence for his participation in the operations against politicians accused of protecting drug syndicates. He led a 2017 drug raid that resulted in the death of Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife Susan, his brother Board Member Octavio Parojinog Jr., and sister Mona. He was also the police chief of Albuera, Letye when its mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was accused of involvement in illegal drugs trade, was killed inside his jail cell in 2016.

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