Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, who has been relieved from the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) and was ordered to report to the office of Philippine National Police chief Gen. Archie Gamboa, is not in the watchlist of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Western Visayas.
PDEA-6 regional director Alex Tablate said yesterday that the name of Espenido was not on their watchlist as of February 13.
Gamboa has stood firm on his position not to disclose the identities of the 357 police officers allegedly involved in illegal drugs pending investigation results.
“Respect our request. I appealed to you that don’t look at the personalities in the watchlist. It’s a very complex process. So we will not discuss anything about it because there are prejudices that (might) be developed (by) people,” Gamboa said yesterday.
Gamboa's remarks came after reports said Espenido, former deputy for operations and drug enforcement unit chief of the BCPO, is allegedly on Duterte’s drug list.
He added that public pronouncements on the watchlist could “preempt the decision of the President” on how to address the issue once these cops are proven to be involved in illegal drugs.
“So I hope you will let us do the evaluation and we will submit it to the President. We don’t know what the President will do with the recommendation,” Gamboa added.
The validation of information on 299 of the 357 police officers reportedly involved in illegal drugs officially started at the regional level yesterday.
Meanwhile, 15 applied for optional retirement while the remaining 43 went absent without official leave (AWOL).
On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said he will ask Duterte to comment on Espenido’s alleged inclusion in the narco list.
Espenido, also former Ozamiz City police chief, made headlines for leading the July 2017 anti-drug operation where suspected narco-politician, city mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., and 15 others were killed.
He was also the police chief of Albuera, Leyte when its former mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was detained as a drug suspect, was shot dead inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay City in 2016.
In October 2019, Espenido was promoted to deputy for operations and drug enforcement unit chief of the BCPO.
But on February 5, Espenido was relieved from his post and transferred to Gamboa's office.
Espenido’s transfer came only three weeks after he started leading the city police in anti-drug operations in Sitio Sibucao, Barangay Banago, Bacolod City – an area known for the presence of several drug personalities.
Sen. Leila de Lima, in a press release, said Espenido’s reportedly being in Duterte's drug list is “Ironically amazing”.
“Espenido must know a lot to make him a target himself. Has he lost his usefulness? Or is he now a threat to his top boss because of what he (Espenido) knows?,” de Lima asked.
“Let's see how this new mystery would unravel in the increasingly messy terrain we now have under an unstable leader,” she added.*SGG/PNA
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