ALL but 47 of the 357 policemen in President Duterte’s list of narco cops tested negative for drug use, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa disclosed yesterday.
Gamboa said the drug test was conducted immediately after he met with the beleaguered cops in Camp Crame on February 7.
“Immediately after I spoke to them, we conducted a drug test but incidentally those who were present got negative results. Those inside (the hall) were all taken urine samples and incidentally all tested negative,” Gamboa told a press briefing on Monday morning.
Gamboa said the 310 cops who tested negative were also subjected to a polygraph or lie detector test, but admitted that the findings the test has no “probative value” and merely just an “aid for investigation.”
Gamboa said 47 of the narco cops were not able to attend the February 7 meeting. Of these, 43 have been marked Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) for failing to follow orders to attend the meeting.
One of the four who failed to attend the meeting but not marked AWOL was S/Sgt. Ronaldo Barrameda who was shot dead by an unidentified suspect in Biñan City in Laguna two days before the meeting.
Gamboa did not give any explanation as to the three others who were absent from the meeting but were not marked AWOL.
Among those named in the narco cops list was Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, one of the poster boys of the Duterte administration’s war against drugs. Sources said Espenido was supposedly among those who were present during the meeting called by Gamboa.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has said the PNP is now validating the information on the supposed involvement of Espenido and the other narco cops with the illegal drugs trade in the country.
Año has said that if the validation points to a possible connivance with illegal drugs trader, the PNP will conduct an investigation and file the necessary charges, if warranted.
Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday warned of a possible cover-up of the narco cops’ connivance with narcotics syndicates, citing the offer of early retirement for those who are included in the list.
Gamboa defended his offer by saying: “First, remember these policemen also served the country.”
He likewise said the Vice President made the “wrong statement” and insisted she had “no basis” to make the warning.
“We are adjudicating them, why would you say we are protecting them? Had we intended to protect them, why would we announce the 357? That’s the last argument I am going to make with that statement,” Gamboa said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said that while President Duterte believes that Espenido was a victim of black propaganda, the PNP and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) should proceed with its investigation and adjudication.
Panelo said a confirmation of Espenido’s involvement after the investigation could change the opinion of the President.
Panelo, in a briefing on Monday, said the PNP should continue its validation and adjudication of Espenido and not allow the President’s trust and confidence on the police officer to influence their findings.
“Obviously it has not been influenced. As Secretary Año says, we will still investigate, which is the correct position,” he said.
Espenido’s name became famous after he hugged the headlines after two suspected narco-politicians ended up dead during his stint as police chief of Albuera, Leyte and Ozamiz City.
The President had later given Espenido a special award for his outstanding performance in the anti-illegal drug operations and deployed him to Bacolod City to help resolve the illegal drugs issue in the area. – With Jocelyn Montemayor