MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday said failure of intelligence gathering could have been done intentionally to wrongfully include Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido on the President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug watchlist.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made this remark after Espenido, the cop who led major anti-drug operations against big-time suspects, claimed that his inclusion on the drug watchlist was a failure of intelligence.
Panelo, also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said Espenido’s claim “could be true” because he continues to have the trust and confidence of Duterte.
“It’s not unexpected that there may be some flaws in intelligence gathering. That happens. Sometimes they’re even intentional. You’re being fed with the wrong info coming from those who are against a particular officer,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Asked if he considered Espenido as being singled out by his colleagues, Panelo said: “Could be. Because the President says it’s black propaganda as far as he’s concerned so victim nga siya (he really is a victim).”
He said he still considers Duterte’s drug watchlist “credible” despite striking out several police officers.
“Eh kung natanggal mo na yung mga di dapat isama e di credible. After all, trabaho rin nila mag-gather ng intelligence. But siyempre may nakakalusot na mali (If you removed those who shouldn’t be included, then it’s credible. After all, it’s also their job to gather intelligence. But of course, some mistakes happen),” he said.
He believed that Espenido’s contribution to the government’s war on drugs affected several ninja cops or police officers who resell drugs seized in anti-drugs operations.
“Definitely marami talaga siyang nasagasaan kaya napag-initan ng mga involved (Definitely he ran over a lot of people that’s why he is being ganged up by those involved),” Panelo said.
On Monday, Panelo said Duterte’s position on Espenido could still change depending on new intelligence information given to him.
“Ang kaniyang posisyon (His position) on the basis of circumstances or info, intelligence info, information given to him; but if those circumstances changed, then necessarily, he will have to change his position,” Panelo said.
He said Duterte had several “resources” that showed that Espenido was “clean.”
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Espenido should have been stricken out of the watchlist after the intelligence was validated.
He, however, said he is not clearing Espenido and that he will still have to go through the adjudication process, despite Malacañang’s vouching for his non-inclusion on the list.
Espenido made a name for himself after leading the operations against suspected narco-politicians, such as Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog.
In 2016, he was the chief of police in Albuera when Espinosa, who was detained as a drug suspect, was shot dead inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City. (iam/sovereignph.com/PNA)