LT. COL. Jovie Espenido, one of the poster boys of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, said his inclusion in the narco list of policemen was a product of intelligence failure as he belied his involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
“It can be (intelligence) failure, we all know how intelligence (community) works,” Espenido told reporters on Monday night.
Espenido suspected some “well-connected” people or politicians deliberately spread false information about him to destroy his reputation, leading to his inclusion in the list of 357 narco policemen.
During the media meeting, Espenido voiced out his frustration over the failure of his senior officers to vouch for his integrity, especially with his background in the campaign against illegal drugs.
“At the end of the day, they don’t know me. Why?” he asked, adding: “Hindi ako nakinabang. Sa akin, I did my duty to the people and to God… Tingnan niyo kung paano ako mag-trabaho. (I did not benefit from illegal drugs. I did my duty to the people and to God. Just look at how I have been working).”
“Just to inform lahat, simula pagka-pulis ko, palaban na tayo sa drugs. Ngayon, si Pangulong Duterte ay lumalaban sa drugs. Ngayon pa ba ako sasali sa drugs. (Just to inform everyone, I have been against drugs since I became a policeman. President Duterte has declared a war against drugs. Why would I join the drugs trade now?),” he also said.
Espenido admitted it is going to be a “challenge” for him to have his name removed from the narco list. “But with God’s guidance,” he said he is “confident” that he will be cleared from the allegations.
The beleaguered police official said his named first appeared in the list in 2016 but he successfully petitioned the PNP directorate for intelligence to have it stricken out. He said he was surprised his named re-surfaced in the list.
“Why is the PNP treating me this way?” Espenido asked with frustration.
Espenido first gained prominence in November 2016 when policemen killed Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., a suspected drug trafficker, while detained on drug charges.
Police claimed Espinosa fought it out with policemen who were serving an arrest warrant for illegal possession of firearms. Espenido at the time was the town’s police chief.
Espenido was later named the chief of police of Ozamis City and headed the anti-narcotics raid that led to the death of Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 15 others in July 2017.
In October last year, President Duterte announced he was assigning Espenido to the Bacolod City police and gave him a free hand to “go and start killing them (drug personalities)” in the city.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said there was no failure of intelligence on the part of the PNP but rather, a delayed validation of the alleged drugs links of Espenido.
“Hindi failure of intelligence. Kaya nga lumabas name niya dahil may intelligence report. Failure of deliberation lang, hindi na-deliberate ng maaga
(There was no failure of intelligence. The reason why his [Espenido’s] name came out was because there was an intelligence report. But there was failure of deliberation, the deliberation or validation [of Espenido’s alleged drug links] was not immediately done),” Dela Rosa, a former PNP chief, said.
Dela Rosa said he is confident Espenido’s name will be excluded from the list during the validation process.
The senator said Espenido’s name could have been included in the President’s list after he earned the ire of other well-connected narco cops whose illegal operations he might have stopped in the past.
“Resbakan ka ng narco cop na ‘yun na nasa intel community by creating derogatory record against you. So ‘yung receiving unit hanggang hindi naba-validate, it may stay there (Those narco cops with connections in the intelligence community will get back at you by creating derogatory record against you. So, your name will stay [in the list] until it is validated),” Dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa said information on a person’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs is forwarded to the Inter-Agency Committee Against Illegal Drugs (ICAD) which will validate them.
He said he cannot blame the ICAD for any delays in the validation since it takes time to authenticate information reaching the agency.
“Nagulat ako pero expected ko na ‘yan. Niresbakan ka, that’s how dirty drugs is. Ngayon good boy ka, bukas bad boy ka, makikita mo ang impluwensiya ng sindikato (I was surprised but that was expected. They got back at him. That’s how dirty drugs is –today you’re a good boy, the following day you’re bad. We can see the influence of drug syndicates here),” he added.
Malacañang agreed that flaws in intelligence gathering could have led to Espenido’s inclusion in the list.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said: “(Espenido’s statement) could be true, because the President trusts him. It’s not unexpected that there may be some flaws in intelligence gathering. That happens.
Sometimes they’re even intentional, you are being fed with the wrong info coming from those who are against a particular officer and if it gets into the system, it would come out.”
Like Dela Rosa, Panelo said Espenido could have been targeted by some of his errant colleagues, adding that the police official’s incessant drive against illegal drugs could have affected the criminal activities of ninja cops.
“Definitely marami talaga siyang nasagasaan, yes. Kung sa nasagasaan, napag-initan ng mga involved (Definitely he had ran over a lot of people. If he did, he is now being targeted by those involved),” Panelo said.
While PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa announced the inclusion of 357 cops in the President’s narco list, it was Interior Secretary Eduardo Año who confirmed that Espenido’s name was included in the list.
The PNP has started adjudicating the case against Espenido and 297 other narco cops, excluding one who was shot dead by an unidentified assailant on February 5 in Laguna; 15 who opted for early retirement; and 43 who are due for dismissal after being marked Absent Without Official Leave.– With Jocelyn Montemayor