MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday guaranteed the protection of beleaguered Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, who is among the 357 policemen on President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug watch list.
Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the President would ensure Espenido’s protection amid threats to his life.
“If that is the fear of 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,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.
He said Espenido could easily avail of protection should he make a formal request.
“If Col. Espenido would want to ask for any protective measure from government, then he can so request just like any other citizen,” Panelo said.
He noted that there could be a basis for Espenido’s claims that his inclusion in the drug watch list could have been made up by politicians.
Asked to react to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa’s displeasure over Espenido violating the gag order on all police officials on the list, Panelo said the country’s top cop was already taking care of the situation.
“According to Gen. Gamboa, he will confront it. Meaning, he will investigate whether he violated the gag order or not,” he said.
Gamboa earlier said it is a general instruction for the cops included in the list to remain silent on the issue pending validation.
Meanwhile, he said the controversial cop continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of Duterte despite his inclusion in the drug watch list.
Espenido, the cop who led major anti-drug operations against big-time suspects, claimed that his inclusion in the drug watch list was a failure of intelligence, which the Palace backed.
Earlier, Panelo said Espenido could be a “victim” if proven that he was being singled out by those who put him on the drug watch list.
Espenido was chief of police of Albuera, Leyte when the town’s mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed while in detention in 2016.
When he was transferred to Ozamiz in Misamis Occidental in 2017, the city’s mayor, Reynaldo Parojinog, was killed in an anti-drug operation. (PNA)