Freeman Region

Espenido cleared of drug charges

Mylen Manto - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices has cleared Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido of criminal and administrative charges filed against him, linking him to drugs.

Lalaine Jimenea, a veteran journalist and publisher of a local newspaper in Ormoc City, accused Espenido of being a “drug protector or coddler” of self-confessed drug lord Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa.

Graft investigation and prosecution officer Rodil Casal II dismissed the charges against Espenido, for “lack of substantial evidence” on negligence and tolerance, grave misconduct, abuse of authority and serious neglect of duty, in relation to Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.

The Ombudsman joint resolution was issued on April 16 this year, a copy of which was furnished to the media by the Pepito and Partners Law firm, counsel of Espenido.

“This Office is mindful of the nature of the jobs of law enforcers, the risk on their lives they take every day and their hardships, thus, to just accuse them of having abused their sworn duties without concrete and convincing proof would be unfair on their part and a bit demoralizing. Thus, in the absence of malice or bad faith on the part of respondent, the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties and functions must stand in his favor,” read the Ombudsman joint resolution.

Jimenea, in her complaint, alleged that on September 23, 2016, a certain Max Miro— described as the “right-hand and trusted drug distributor of Kerwin Espinosa,” voluntarily surrendered to Espenido and turned-over three kilos of shabu worth P30 million.

Jimenea accused Espenido of maliciously delaying the submission of the surrendered drugs to the PNP Crime Laboratory, in violation of Section 21 of RA 9165. Worse, Espenido even failed to file charges against Miro, she alleged.

Pepito and Partners Law firm said that Espenido, in his counter-affidavit, denied the charges, claiming that these were “malicious and retaliatory in nature” because Jimenea was herself among those listed in Espinosa’s records to be receiving “payola” from the drug lord.

“There was a delay in the submission (of the drugs), because of the distance of the Crime Lab from Albuera town in Leyte,” and that there were “numerous surrenderers and amount of illegal items, which were turned over at the time,” Espenido defended.

Espenido added that no charges were filed against Miro because the shabu the latter surrendered allegedly belonged to Espinosa, who was the target of the “massive anti-drug police operation.”

In her reply-affidavit, Jimenea countered that her filing of complaints was done in good faith and that she had been a long time critic of Espinosa, who she believed had ties with Espenido himself.

Casal, in his resolution, in favor of Espenido, stated: “Records show that Miro was not the owner of the subject illegal drugs, hence, the non-filing of a case against him is justified. Besides, in the PNP’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, our law enforcers are given latitude on what strategies to adopt for as long as they are not arbitrary, motivated by malice or gross negligence amounting to bad faith.

Casal ruled that the delay in the submission of shabu to the Crime Lab does not make Espenido a protector/coddler of illegal drugs, as sufficiently explained by the latter.

When sought for comment over the dismissal of the charges, Jimenea in a text message told The Freeman: “I believe the Ombudsman erred in its decision, but I was not able to file MR (motion for reconsideration) because of personal matters.”

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