DILG chief: Yes, Espenido is on narco watchlist

Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo

INTERIOR and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año corroborated the statements of two high-ranking police officials who said that Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido is on the illegal drugs watchlist of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Espenido, who has been commended by the President for his participation in the bloody war on drugs, is among the 357 policemen whose alleged links to the illegal drugs trade are undergoing adjudication, Año confirmed Friday, February 14, 2020.

“Yes, nakasama sya dun sa second batch nung listahan ni PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte)... Yes that’s true and he will also undergo validation and possible investigation,” he said.

Año said Duterte has long been aware of Espenido’s inclusion in the list and has ordered Philippine National Police Chief Archie Gamboa to conduct verification. Gamboa has repeatedly declined to confirm nor deny the information.

“Kung merong information, data available eh di mag-conduct ng investigation, kasi ito para mai-clear sila kung dapat silang i-clear, hindi naman yan ibig sabihin na guilty na sila, kaya nga sila nasa serbisyo pa dahil there is not enough evidence for their dismissal,” the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary said.

(If information or data is available, then an investigation should be conducted so that those who are innocent would be cleared. This does not mean that they are guilty. They’re still in the service because there is not enough evidence for their dismissal.)

“We also give them their right to be heard so dun naman yan lalabas pagka magkaroon ng investigation. Kung after the validation meron halimbawa na talagang mga availability of information na magiging basis for investigation, meron silang due process para ipagtangol ang kanilang sarili,” he added.

(If the results of the investigation show basis for an investigation, they will be given due process and allowed to defend themselves.)

In a text message, Espenido said he will speak about the issue by Monday, February 17, 2020.

“Monday na lang. Hintay pa ako (I’m still waiting for) go signal from my PNP. Thanks and sorry muna ngayon...Godbless po,” he stated.

Gamboa still refused to confirm nor deny Espenido’s inclusion in the list.

“Sabi ko nga (As I said), I neither confirm nor deny kasi nga there is confidentiality on the part of the list. Pinromise ko rin sa 357 that I will not divulge your names because they will undergo specific process,” he said in a radio interview.

“Kung nagsalita man si Secretary (Año) o si Presidente, take it from them. Pero sa PNP ito pa rin ‘yung stand ko na I will not divulge any of the personalities in the 357,” he added.

He also clarified that terms which should be used is adjudication and not investigation to avoid the impression that charges have been filed against the 357 cops.

“So when you say validation saka adjudication tinitingnan kung gaano katotoo ‘yung mga information na na-gather ng PNP at ng ibang agencies... kasi kaya nga ayoko magsalita doon sa 357 kasi hindi pa sila guilty at yun nga vina-validate ang reliability ng information tungkol sa kanila. Ang presumption kasi ng tao na pag nasa narco-list ka na may kaso ka na. Wala pa, these are based on information kaya ang tawag validation and adjudication,” said Gamboa.

Espenido was among the policemen who received commendation from Duterte for the implementation of several operations in line with the administration’s crackdown against illegal drugs.

Año said Espenido has been relieved from his post in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental and reassigned to the office of the PNP chief because of his alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

Espenido was the police chief of Albuera town in Leyte when its mayor, Rolando Espinosa, was shot dead inside his detention cell in Baybay City, also in Leyte, in November 2016.

Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) agents claimed that Espinosa resisted when they served a search warrant for illegal firearms in his detention cell.

Espenido was then assigned to Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental where he led the raid in the properties of the city mayor, Reynaldo Parojinog, in July 2017.

The mayor, his wife and 13 others were killed while his son Reynaldo Jr and daughter Ozamiz City Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog were arrested and charged over illegal drugs.

Both Espinosa and Parojinog were tagged as narco-politicians and were on Duterte's watchlist. (SunStar Philippines)