Duterte stands by Espenido on drugs list issue


President Duterte does not believe that his drug war poster boy Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido is involved in the illegal drug trade and maintained someone was trying to ruin his reputation, Malacañang said.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement Friday afternoon after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed that Espenido was included in the President’s drugs watchlist.

In a statement, Panelo said Duterte does not believe in the allegations against the controversial cop. “President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD) believes that Police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido is clean.”

“There appears to be a black propaganda waged against Lt. Col. Espenido to besmirch the reputation of the latter in the eyes of PRRD and the Filipino nation and to derail his unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs,” Panelo added.

“Lt. Col. Espenido continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President. PRRD believes that the reports of his alleged involvement in prohibited drugs are untrue.”

Panelo earlier refused to believe reports about Espenido’s inclusion in the drug list because it was first reported by Rappler, a news organization critical of President Duterte and his administration. Panelo said the Palace would first have to validate the report.

However, on Friday, Año confirmed Espenido’s inclusion in the drug list but said the allegations against the latter were still under validation. He added that Espenido’s past accomplishments could be a positive factor to his side during the process.

Despite refusing to confirm Espenido’s inclusion in the dreaded list, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa confirmed the controversial cop was relieved from his post as Bacolod City police deputy chief for operations, adding that he is already in Camp Crame.

Espenido rose to fame after two suspected narco-politicians ended up dead during his stint as police chief in Albuera, Leyte, and 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.

In October last year, Duterte said he moved the controversial cop to Bacolod City to resolve the illegal drugs issue there once and for all. He even said he gave Espenido the green light to “kill everybody” there.

On Monday, Duterte said he told Gamboa to remove all cops tainted with illegal drugs. It was reported that Gamboa met with 357 police officers included the drug list and offered them optional retirement in order for them to save face.

Panelo said Thursday there was nothing unlawful with Gamboa’s offer to the drug-linked cops because an early retirement will not clear them from their supposed crimes.

President Duterte has threatened to finish all “ninja cops” or police officers who steal illegal drugs seized in operations. He likewise said the involvement of some members of the PNP in the drug trade was his drug war’s biggest problem.

Read more: Palace to verify Espenido’s inclusion in narcolist

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