General among narco-cops taking early retirement

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    A BRIGADIER general was among over a dozen policemen who have signified their intention to avail of the PNP leadership’s offer to go on early retirement over their inclusion in President Duterte’s list of police officers involved in the illegal narcotics trade.

    PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa declined to name the one-star general included in the list of 357 errant cops.

    On Tuesday morning, Gamboa said 14 of the narco cops have signified their intention to go on early retirement. In a television interview on Tuesday afternoon, he said the number was already at 15.

    Asked what is the rank of the most senior policeman who has availed of the offer, Gamboa curtly replied: “Police brigadier general.”

    Pressed to identify the brigadier general, Gamboa told reporters in Camp Crame: “No details please.”

    An exclusive report by Rappler identified Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido as among those in the list of 357 narco cops. Espenido has been described as a poster boy of President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs.

    The PNP has yet to make an official statement on the matter.

    When reached for comment, Espenido told mediamen to direct the question to the PNP chief. He said he will speak on the issue once the PNP chief makes an official statement on his supposed inclusion in the list.

    Reports about Espenido’s inclusion in the list surfaced as early as Tuesday. In a radio interview that day, Gamboa declined to confirm the information.

    “I promised the 357 that I will not reveal, not even their names, because there will be presumption they are guilty. And if we release their names, we cannot avoid speculations that will follow. I hope the people would respect that. Allow us to cleanse our ranks,” Gamboa has said.

    PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac said he is not aware if Espenido was included among the 357 narco policemen.

    “No list given. Strictly held confidential as ordered by PNP chief Gamboa pending result of the validation process,” Banac said.

    Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said Malacanang is verifying reports that Espenido is included in the administration’s narcolist.

    “We should verify that. I-va-validate natin the (We will validate its) veracity,” he said, adding if the report was received by the Office of the President, “the President will investigate (it).”

    Espenido’s names was splashed in newspaper headlines in the past for his role in the deaths of suspected narco-politicians during his stint as police chief in Albuera in Leyte, and in Ozamiz City.

    Espenido was the chief of police of Albuera when drug-linked mayor Rolando Espinosa was shot dead inside his jail cell in 2016. A year later, as Ozamiz police chief, Espenido led the drug raids that led to the killing of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and several others.

    Following the controversial raid in Ozamiz City, Durterte gave Espenido a special award for his outstanding performance in the anti-illegal drug operations in Eastern Visayas and Ozamiz City.

    Gamboa said the PNP leadership is presuming the policemen in the President’s list are innocent.

    He said the policemen, once already out of the service upon early retirement, will be pursued only if they continue their illegal activities.

    Gamboa, in the television interview on Tuesday afternoon, reiterated his appeal to the policemen to go on early retirement, especially if they feel they are guilty.

    He said the policemen who refuse to go on early retirement should not blame him if they end up being charged administratively and criminally since he has already given them the chance to leave the service.

    Gamboa last Friday offered early retirement as an option to the police officers included in the President’s narco list.

    Those who will not take up the offer will be investigated by PNP adjudication boards, which are due to convene this week.

    “Once the process starts, then we will not accept anymore optional retirement… Probably tomorrow, the regional adjudication boards will start meeting,” Gamboa said.

    Meanwhile, Gamboa said 43 of the narco policemen have already been marked on Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) after they failed to show up during last Friday’s meeting in Camp Crame.

    “My instruction against the 43 is to pre-charge them. Remember, when we issued the orders that they are assigned with the office of the chief PNP and their respective units are informed, that’s enough notice for them to report (to Camp Crame,” he said.

    “So the number that we are going to adjudicate is now lesser, minus 15 (who are going on early retirement) and 43 who are already marked AWOL,” he added. – With Jocelyn Montemayor