Controversial cop Espenido distances self from alleged inclusion in drugs watchlist
MANILA, Philippines — Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, who became controversial after the deaths of two mayors linked to drugs in areas where he served as police chief, on Wednesday distanced himself from a media report that claimed he was included in the drugs watchlist.
“Pls tanungin nyo na lang si CPNP. Right after ma-confirm nya, magsasalita na ako (Please just ask the chief of the PNP. If he confirms it, I will speak),” he said in a text message to INQUIRER.net when asked for comment.
PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa has yet to respond as of posting time.
PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac meanwhile refused to confirm the report, saying the list is “strictly held confidential as ordered by PNP chief Gamboa pending result of the validation process.”
Espenido was reportedly among the police officers included in the drugs watchlist who were present during a meeting with Gamboa on Friday. The police officers have been relieved from their posts due to their inclusion in the list.
To recall, Espenido was relieved as deputy director for operations of the Bacolod City police on February 5, although the reason for his removal remained a puzzle.
He was transferred to the Office of the Chief PNP in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Speaking before reporters on Monday, Gamboa said 357 police officers were being investigated for their alleged links to the drug trade, which has been the center of attention of the PNP since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016.
The list came from Duterte’s drug watchlist, according to Gamboa. He said the PNP was given a month for validation.
Espenido was the chief of police in Albuera, Leyte when the then town’s mayor Rolando Espinosa was shot dead inside his detention cell at the Baybay City Provincial Jail in 2016 during the service of search warrants.
Later in 2017 when he was transferred as chief of Ozamiz City police, then Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 14 others linked to the drug trade were also killed in a series of raids.
Espenido has earned praise from Duterte for his work in the campaign against illegal drugs.
When he was transferred to Bacolod City, Duterte even told him that he was “free to kill everybody” there.
PNP had clarified that this remark from the President was only meant to put “emphasis” on his promise to eradicate illegal drugs.
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