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Año insists narcolist is reliable

MANILA, Philippines —It is entirely possible that Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido’s inclusion in President Rodrigo Duterte’s narcolist is based on intrigue or that his name cropped up in an investigation but that does not mean that the list submitted to the President is unreliable, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

“I think his name was included because of some intrigue or the intelligence agencies came across him on their radar,” said Año, a former military intelligence official before serving as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.

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But Año insisted that there would have been some basis for each of the 357 policemen included in the list because it was collated not only by the Philippine National Police but also the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Intelligence Service of the AFP, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and National Bureau of Investigation.

At the same time, however, Año said a “validation process is necessary so Lt. Col. Espenido can defend himself,” Año said.

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Despite the uncertainty over the list, however, all the policemen were put on floating status pending the validation process, similar to a preliminary investigation process prior to the filing of charges.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Espenido’s former boss at the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), also suspected that the list was based on outdated information.

Unverified allegations

The senator said Espenido knows no reason for him to be included in the list except for unverified allegations in 2016 that he was involved in the drug trade when he was chief of police of Albuera town in Leyte.

Espenido was the police chief in Albuera when drug suspect Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed in his cell by policemen who said they were serving a search warrant.

Espenido was later transferred to Ozamiz City where a police raid led to the killing of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., who was also linked to the drug trade, and 14 others.

“He cannot understand and he feels somewhat bad that he was included on the basis of something old and was already resolved,” Lacson said over dwIZ.

Lacson vouched for Espenido, whom he described as a man of integrity and dedication, when they worked together in PAOCTF.

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The so-called narcolist was based on the list that Mr. Duterte revealed two years ago and included 357 policemen, ranging from patrolman to brigadier general and including 43 who are absent without leave and 15 who have since sought optional early retirement. Only 299 remain on the list.

PNP chief Archie Gamboa has formed a group to validate the list within 30 days, after which the list will be resubmitted to the President.

Año said the validation process would also be good for Espenido “so if the issue crops up again under a different administration, he already underwent the process that cleared him. This is to Lt. Col. Espenido’s advantage in the long run.”

Needs validation

He noted that Mr. Duterte’s trust and confidence in Espenido is a big thing “but this needs to undergo the [validation] process

At the same time, Año clarified that opting for early retirement does not necessarily clear the 15 policemen who have applied to do so and their benefits could still be forfeited should there be sufficient evidence against them.

The 357 policemen have all been temporarily assigned to the office of the PNP chief while they undergo validation and will not be holding any posts until the process is completed.

PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac assured the policemen under investigation that the process would be the “opportunity for all policemen [in the list] to clear their names and for those who would be proven to be involved in the illegal drug trade to be charged and dismissed from the service.”

The PNP spokesperson asked the public to give the monthlong adjudication process a chance and to “ignore reports coming out” for the time being.

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TAGS: Drug war, Eduardo Año, Jovie Espenido, narcolist
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