AS HIS name is on President Rodrigo Duterte’s narco-list, P/Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido said the “government” can go after him and kill him.
“Walay lain nga mopatay nako. Ang gobiyerno lang, pulis lang (There would be no other entity that would kill me. It would be the government, the police),” he said in an interview with radio dyHP in Cebu City on Tuesday morning, Feb. 18, 2020.
Espenido was among the 357 police officers on the President’s drugs watchlist. He reported to Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters, after he was relieved from his post as Bacolod City Police deputy director for operations and head of the City Drug Enforcement Unit last Feb. 7.
The police official also said that there are drug lords who are planning to kill him.
“Ang PNP buotan pero ang tawo sa PNP maoy problem (The PNP is good as an institution but the problem is its personnel),” Espenido said.
Espenido said he was not worried about himself, and he announced during the radio interview that he would be an easy target as he often does not carry a firearm with him.
Espenido believed that his name was included in the President’s narco-list stemmed from a picture that showed him in the company of then Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa and Espinosa’s lawyer Rogelio Bato Jr. inside a restaurant in Ormoc City. The meeting took place before the deaths of Bato and Espinosa in 2016, and when Espenido was still the Albuera police chief.
Espinosa is the father of Kerwin, who according to authorities had been Eastern Visayas’ biggest drug lord before he was arrested in Abu Dhabi in October 2016.
Before he met Espinosa and Bato, Espenido said he had received a phone call from then PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa, who instructed him to fetch Espinosa after the mayor decided to surrender himself to authorities in August. Duterte had identified Espinosa as a drug lord.
In the same month, Bato and his companion, an 18-year-old girl, were killed in an ambush in Tacloban City, Leyte.
Nearly three months later, Espinosa was killed in a police operation inside a jail facility in Baybay City, Leyte. Espinosa had been arrested in October for alleged possession of illegal drugs when the police found at least 11 kilograms of shabu at the Espinosa ancestral home in Albuera.
After Espinosa’s surrender, Espenido launched several operations against his son Kerwin’s underlings as he was given 18 days to disband the drug ring. Several armed men who resisted the police died, while 30 of Kerwin’s men surrendered.
Espenido was transferred to Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental in 2017. As the city’s police chief, he led the raid on Parojinog’s clan compound on July 30, 2017. Fifteen people, including mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, were killed.
As he was accused of receiving drug money from Kerwin, Espenido said he was investigated by the adjudication board in Camp Crame. He was eventually cleared in 2017.
Espenido said he has yet to talk with the President, but he was glad that Duterte did not believe he has involvement in drug trafficking.
Espenido admitted he felt shame after learning his name was in the drugs watchlist and that he is one of the high-value targets (HVT).
He said he texted current PNP Chief Archie Gamboa, thanking the latter he was able to serve him.
Espenido said he told the police general: “Salamat sa inyong trust pero mangayo kog pasaylo nga HVT diay ko. Naa sa list diay ko. Awa ra pareho mi ni Kerwin, HVT, high-value target. Grabe na man sad, uy (Thank you for your trust, but I would like to apologize as I am an HVT . I am included in the list. Look, I am the same level as Kerwin. It’s too much.”
He was transferred to the headquarters of the Police Regional Office Western Visayas in Iloilo City, while waiting for result of the Camp Crame’s investigation. (AYB / KAL)