MANILA — Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido has on Tuesday finally spoken.
He vehemently denied any involvement in the illegal drug trade.
He said corrupt politicians and police officials could be the ones responsible for his inclusion in the narco list of the administration.
But Espenido refused to name names but he claimed “they were affected by his anti-crime crusade.”
He also claimed that there might be a possible failure of intelligence in the Philippine National Police (PNP), as there is no record in his 23-year career that linked him to illegal drugs.
“I don’t have a heart of stone. I’m human like everyone else,” Espenido said. “I have senior officers but at the end of the day they don’t even know me.”
Meanwhile, Espenido enjoys the trust and confidence of President Rodrigo Duterte that he is not involved in the illegal drug trade but Palace Spokesman Sal Paneo said this “could still change depending on 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,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
Panelo stressed that Duterte had several sources that apparently showed Espenido was “clean.”
He reiterated that the President believes that Espenido is only a victim of “black propaganda”.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año earlier said Espenido will still have to go through the adjudication process, despite Malacañang’s vouching for his non-inclusion in the drug watch list.
Panelo, however, denied that Duterte did not trust Año’s judgment.
“Si Secretary Año ay mayroon siyang sariling pag-aaral na ginagawa; ganoon din ang PDEA. Si Presidente mayroon din. Kung on the basis of the study of the President, para sa kaniya clean si Col. Espenido, iyon ang sasabihin niya (Secretary Año conducted his own study; as well as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. The President also did. If on the basis of the President, Col. Espenido is clean, that is what he will say),” Panelo said.
He said Duterte would “always rely on the presumption of innocence” unless evidence shows the opposite.
While Año confirmed that Espenido was on the drugs watch list, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa was mum on the matter, saying his agency would conduct its own investigation of their own people.
The PNP is expected to finish adjudication of over 357 police personnel in a month as part of its internal cleansing efforts against errant cops.
Meanwhile, Panelo said he believes that the aggressive crackdown on illegal drugs is still a success despite Espenido’s inclusion in the drugs watch list.
“Still a success,” Panelo said, enumerating the drug war’s various accomplishments such as the dismantling of drug factories, the arrest of drug syndicates, and rehabilitation of drug dependents, among others.
Last week, Panelo said Duterte still trusts Espenido despite the latter’s supposed inclusion on the government’s drug watch list.
“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 said.
Espenido’s performance big factor
Año on Monday said Espenido’s records in fighting illegal drugs during his term as chief of police of Ozamiz City would serve in his favor.
“Malaking factor yung ginawa ni Espenido doon sa Ozamis para sa usaping adjudication at validation niya [What Espenido did in Ozamis was a great factor for his adjudication and validation],” Año said in a press briefing.
Año, however, clarified that he was not clearing the name of Espenido.
“I’m just saying my observation based on actual events. I can say na ako I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to Espenido (I can say that I’m giving benefit of the doubt to Espenido),” he said.
Last week, Año confirmed Espenido’s inclusion on the drug watchlist, saying it is challenge for him.
He added that Espenido’s performance could also be the basis of Duterte’s statement saying that he is “clean” and that the allegations against him are “untrue.”
Año said the validation is an opportunity for Espenido and other policemen to prove their innocence.
Espenido made headlines for leading the July 2017 anti-drug operation where suspected narco-politician, city mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., and 15 others were killed.
He was also the police chief of Albuera, Leyte when its former mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was detained as a drug suspect, was shot dead inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City in 2016.
In October 2019, Espenido was promoted as deputy for operations and drug enforcement unit chief of the Bacolod City Police Office.
But on February 5, Espenido was relieved from his post and transferred to Gamboa’s office. (iam/sovereignph.com/With PNA reports)