Drug war ‘still a success’, Palace says despite Espenido inclusion in drug watchlist
MANILA, Philippines—The Duterte administration’s war on drugs remains a success despite the inclusion of one of its key implementors in the drug watchlist, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo made the pronouncement after President Rodrigo Duterte said that Police Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido is “clean” of drug links even as Interior Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed the inclusion of the controversial police official in the government drug list.
“Ganun pa din (Still the same). Still a success,” Panelo declared in a Palace briefing when asked about the possible effect of Espenido’s inclusion in the drug list in Duterte’s brutal crackdown against illegal drugs.
Espenido was among the polarizing figures in the government’s controversial war on drugs.
He was in charge of the drug operation that led to the killing of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and several others. He was also police chief of Albuera, Leyte, when its mayor, Rolando Espinosa, was killed by cops during the service of a warrant in his detention cell.
His inclusion in the drug watchlist, according to Malacañang, is mere “black propaganda” meant to discredit the drug war.
Panelo also surmised that Espenido could have been among the 120 who were removed from the drug list due to continuous validation.
But when asked what the President’s basis was in clearing the police official of drug links, Panelo pointed to the Chief Executive’s “unlimited sources of information.”
He likewise denied that Malacañang is preempting the adjudication of Espenido by issuing a statement vouching for the controversial police official.
Año earlier said Espenido will have to go through the process, just like the over 350 other police officials in the list, despite the Palace statement clearing him of drug ties.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police chief and Espenido’s former commanding officer in the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), said if Espenido’s case was true, it “could be one big reason why the war against illegal drugs is failing.”