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Drug war poster boy Lt Col Jovie Espenido is in Pres Duterte drug list

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edited February 12 in Local and Foreign Issues

Drug war poster boy Jovie Espenido is in Duterte drug list

GOLDEN BOY TAINTED. Controversial police officer Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido is in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug list. 

MANILA, Philippines – Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido, one of the poster boys of President Rodrigo Duterte’s unrelenting but lagging anti-illegal drugs campaign, is in the President’s notorious drug list.

This was confirmed to Rappler by two police generals privy to the list on Wednesday, February 12, speaking on the condition of anonymity for their security.

Espenido’s inclusion on the list is a blow to the Duterte government’s anti-drug campaign, as he is among few cops whom President Duterte praised in his so-called “drug war" after he led the operation that led to the killing of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog.

Rappler has sought the comment of Espenido through text message on Wednesday, but he has yet to reply as of posting.

Espenido’s inclusion: On Friday, PNP chief General Archie Gamboa convened a meeting with cops who have been included in the President’s drug list, all sacked from their posts and placed under Gamboa’s office because of their inclusion.

One of the cops present in the meeting in the Camp Crame National Headquarters meeting was Espenido, surprising officials in the conference.

Who’s Espenido again? Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido catapulted himself to national recognition after masterminding the anti-drug operation that led to the death of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 14 others, including his wife Susan, brother Octavio Jr, and sister Mona. He was also the chief of the Albuera town police when its mayor, Rolando Espinosa, was killed by cops during the service of a warrant in his detention cell. (READ: Jovie Espenido sans the uniform)

After the operations, Espenido was hailed by Duterte, who even verbally gave him the order that he was “free to kill everybody” after promoting him to lead the Bacolod City police's operations arm. But on Wednesday, February 5, Espenido was relieved from his post, puzzling his colleagues. It turned out that it was because he was in Duterte’s own drug list.

What happened in the meeting? Without disclosing names of cops present in the meeting, Gamboa told reporters on Monday, February 10, that he urged the cops who knew themselves guilty to avail of early retirement to cut themselves off from the police organization.

Gamboa then ordered officials not to speak to reporters of the meeting and of the cops included in the drug list, emphasizing that the cops are still innocent until proven guilty.

What Espenido’s inclusion means: Espenido in the drug list does not automatically mean that he is involved in drugs. It has been repeatedly reported that the administration’s drug list has holes in its record-keeping, and that its process has been opaque to the public.

No less than Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino once said that the drug list was “not airtight” and that they don’t have enough proof to defend their allegations before the courts. Despite this, the Duterte government has released names on the list, most notably before village and senatorial elections.

Special treatment? One of the generals Rappler spoke to expressed concern about Espenido’s inclusion, worrying that the police command allowed Espenido’s promotion from Ozamiz to Bacolod despite knowing his inclusion in the drug list.

The 357 cops listed in Duterte’s drug list will be undergoing “adjudication”—their process of double-checking whether the cops deserved to be listed in the first place. The final decision whether a cop will be kept or removed from the list will fall on the table of Duterte.


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    edited February 12

    Lt Col Jovie Espenido sacked for suspected drug links?


    MANILA, Philippines — Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, the controversial police official who led a bloody operation against members of an influential family allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade, is reportedly among 357 police officers under investigation for illegal drugs.

    A source, who requested anonymity, said Espenido was among the police officials suspected of involvement in illegal drugs who were at a meeting called by Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa.

    “He (Espenido) is included in that group,” the source said.

    Gamboa has repeatedly refused to comment when asked asked by journalists if Espenido is on the list, as he explained those under investigation are still presumed innocent.

    Espenido was relieved from his post last week as deputy chief for operations and head of the drug enforcement units of the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO).

    The relief order was issued by Maj. Gen. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, chief of the directorial staff. Espenido was reassigned to the Office of the Chief PNP at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

    The source did not go into details on the specific allegations against Espenido, who gained prominence in President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign after he led an operation against members of the Parojinog family in Ozamiz City last July 2017.

    Fifteen people, including then Ozamiz mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., were killed in alleged shootouts. Among those arrested was former vice mayor Nova Princess Parojinog.

    Espenido did not comment when asked about his inclusion in the list.

    Optional retirement

    Included in the list of 15 police officials under investigation for alleged links in the illegal drug trade is a one-star general who opted to retire early.

    In an interview over CNN Philippines on Tuesday, Gamboa said a star-rank officer, or a brigadier general, is the highest-ranking officer who availed himself of optional retirement.

    The one-star general is among the 357 police officers relieved from their posts.

    The PNP chief has refused to divulge the names and even a breakdown of the ranks of the police officers who are under probe, stressing they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

    A source who spoke on condition of anonymity said there are two police generals on the list.

    Speaking to reporters yesterday, Gamboa said the police officials who are thinking of retiring early should decide quickly as the adjudication process will start on Thursday.

    “Once the process starts, then we will not accept any more optional retirements,” he said in an interview at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

    Gamboa has offered the police officials the option to retire early to save the PNP from shame and reduce their workload.

    “I am open for optional retirement of those who are involved,” he said.

    A mystery

    The alleged inclusion of Espenido in the so-called drug watch list is a mystery to his former colleagues assigned in Western Visayas.

    Lt. Col. Ariel Pico, spokesman for the BCPO, yesterday said that they have no idea as to the source of allegations that Espenido is involved in the illegal drug trade.

    Pico, however, admitted that the assignment of Espenido to the BCPO boosted their anti-illegal drug campaign, as he was able to facilitate the surrender of so many drug personalities, aside from the arrest of some high-value drug personalities, and recovery of suspected shabu worth millions of pesos.

    He also admitted that Espenido was being linked to several incidents of drug-related killings in Bacolod City but this remains an allegation not backed up by evidence.

    Even the Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 was surprised by the abrupt relief of Espenido from the BCPO.

    Lt. Col. Joem Malong, spokesman for PRO 6, yesterday said that they are not authorized to issue a statement, except for the PNP national headquarters.

    Malong earlier said they have no idea why Espenido was relieved.

    Espenido’s relief, however, was not a surprise for Negros Occidental Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer, who said police officials come and go in their assignments if there are orders from Camp Crame.

    Ferrer is not inclined to believe that Espenido’s relief would have an effect on the ongoing anti-drug campaign of BCPO.

    He recalled that the BCPO achieved numerous accomplishments in the campaign against illegal drugs even when Espenido was on vacation for more than a month.

    All hype?

    Before Espenido assumed the BCPO drug czar post in late October 2019, information came out that he was allegedly just assigned to the region for political reasons.

    Espenido allegedly exited the Ozamiz City Police Station following a spat with its local elective officials. He then went on to lead the BCPO City Drug Enforcement Unit.

    By the end of the year, BCPO emerged as the top performing police office in Western Visayas when it comes to anti-illegal drugs operations and the volume of drugs confiscated.

    Records showed that BCPO seized P73,031,459.20 worth of illegal drugs from January to December 2019. The figure includes 6,083.026 grams of shabu valued at P72,996,312 and 152.8139 grams of marijuana worth P35,147.20.

    However, a reliable source who asked not to be named said that Espenido only led two anti-illegal drug operations that happened in January 2020.

    Both main targets of such operations apparently evaded arrest. One of the two operations confiscated around 10 grams of suspected shabu but no one in the BCPO hierarchy could confirm such reports, opting to refrain from commenting further on Espenido’s relief.

    Aside from Espenido, also relieved from the PRO 6 was Lt. Col. Mannan Muarip, chief of the Regional Headquarters Support Unit 6 (RHSU-6) based in Camp Martin Delgado, Iloilo.

    “I, for one, am waiting for the reason of their relief,” Brig. Gen. Rene Pamuspusan, Western Visayas police chief, said.

    But another anonymous source upheld the fact that the 15 police officials were called only for adjudication.

    “All of those who were relieved were on the PRRD list. They were taken out of post for adjudication purposes. It’s good for them to clear themselves if indeed they have nothing to do with illegal drugs,” he said.

    Espenido had made quite a name for himself in Ozamiz City, where he led the “neutralization” of the Parojinog group.

    But some quarters disputed the reports, citing that it was a different unit that led the Parojinog raid and Espenido merely supported and, later on, filed cases against the suspects.

    Malacañang vowed to look into the reports of Espenido’s inclusion in the government’s narco list.

    “If it is officially received by the Office of the President, the President will investigate,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a chance interview yesterday.

    Espenido was the police chief of Ozamiz when its mayor, Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife Susan, his brother, board member Octavio Parojinog Jr., and sister Mona were killed in an anti-drug operation in 2017. He was also the police chief of Albuera, Leyte when its mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed inside his prison cell in November 2016.

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    Officials confirm: Espenido on Duterte’s narco list

    TWO high-ranking police officials confirmed on Wednesday, February 12, that Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido is among the 357 policemen on President Rodrigo Duterte’s drugs watchlist.

    Espenido was among those relieved from his post in the latest revamp at the Philippine National Police (PNP) and reassigned to the office of the PNP chief.

    One of the sources, who have asked not to be named for security reasons, said Espenido allegedly serves as a protector of the rivals of the Parojinog clan in the illegal drugs trade.

    Espenido was the police chief of Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental when police raided the Parojinog clan's properties on July 30, 2017. Fifteen people, including mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, were killed.

    The mayor's son Reynaldo Jr. and daughter Nova Princess, who was the Ozamiz vice mayor, are still in prison for illegal drugs charges.

    Duterte praised Espenido after the Parojinog raids.

    Eight months before the Ozamiz raids, Espenido served as police chief of Albuera town in Leyte.

    During his term, Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa was gunned down by Criminal Investigation and Detection Group agents inside his detention cell in Baybay City for allegedly resisting the implementation of a search warrant.

    PNP Chief Archie Gamboa neither confirmed nor denied the information.

    “No comment,” he said.

    Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in an interview with reporters Wednesday, said, "Malabo 'yun."

    But he said the President would investigate if the information reaches him.

    On February 7, 2020, Gamboa ordered the relief of Espenido from his post as Bacolod City Police deputy director for operations and head of the City Drug Enforcement Unit.

    The two high-ranking officials said Espenido was relieved because of his involvement in the illegal drugs trade.

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    Año confirms Espenido on Duterte drug list

    MANILA, Philippines — Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed yesterday that police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido is included in President Duterte’s narco list and will be investigated for possible links to the illegal drug trade.

    Año was asked to confirm reports that Espenido, who has been relieved of his post, is among 357 police officers included in the government’s drug watchlist.

    “Yes, that’s true, and he will also undergo validation and possible investigation,” Año said in a Viber message to The STAR.

    A source, who requested anonymity, said Espenido and two one-star generals are among 357 police officers who have been relieved from their posts and are now under investigation for illegal drugs.

    Año could not recall when Espenido’s name was included in the list but said the police official belongs to the second batch of personalities with suspected links to illegal drugs.

    Duterte knows

    He added that Duterte has long been aware of Espenido’s inclusion in the watchlist.

    It is unclear, however, whether or not the President knew this when he heralded Espenido’s appointment as deputy chief for police operations in Bacolod City in October last year.

    Espenido was the police chief of Ozamiz City when the bloody anti-drug operation in July 2017 was launched against members of the Parojinog family and their associates, who had long been suspected of running an illegal drugs trade.

    Then mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife Susan, brother board member Octavio Parojinog Jr. and sister Mona were killed in alleged shootouts with policemen.

    Espenido was also the police chief of Albuera, Leyte when its mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed inside his detention cell in November 2016.

    PNP chief slams news outfit

    Yesterday, Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said he would never again answer inquiries from journalists about Espenido’s inclusion in the President’s narco list.

    Visibly irked during an ambush interview, Gamboa called out online news site Rappler for coming out with the story citing unnamed sources.

    “I pleaded not for us to look into the personalities and you know the intention (behind it),” he told reporters at Camp Crame, Quezon City.

    The PNP chief said he repeatedly refused to name the police officers under probe, because they are presumed innocent until their adjudication teams obtain strong evidence linking them to illegal drugs.

    “I felt insulted with that,” Gamboa said of the online story and vowed never to entertain media questions because of that.

    A Rappler reporter at the scene tried to pose a question, but was rebuffed by Gamboa.

    Gamboa said he has already ordered the investigation of police officers in the narco list and that there are 15 of them who accepted his offer to go on early retirement.

    Another 43 were marked AWOL (absent without leave) after snubbing a surprise drug test Gamboa had ordered.

    By availing themselves of optional retirement, the police officers are still entitled to their benefits.

    But the PNP chief had this warning: “Hindi ibig sabihin na off the hook na kayo (This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook).”

    Gamboa said they could still be charged criminally if the PNP obtains evidence linking them to illegal drugs.

    Espenido has said he will only talk about his inclusion in the narco list if Gamboa confirms it.

    Meanwhile, the adjudication process for the police officers started yesterday and Gamboa expects the investigating committees to finish their evaluation in one month.

    Gamboa will then submit their recommendations to the President, whom he said is the sole authority to decide on the fate of the police officers.

    “It will only go two ways. Either he approves it (the recommendations) or not,” he said.

    Gamboa likewise downplayed Duterte’s statement that ninja cops or police officers involved in the recycling of prohibited must be killed.

    “You should know the President by now,” he told reporters about the President’s harsh pronouncements.

    Palace backs Gamboa

    At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said nothing was wrong with Gamboa’s move to offer police officers in the narco list optional retirement.

    Panelo said the PNP chief’s call was a two-pronged strategy that would also implicate the tainted police officers once they file for early retirement, because it could be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

    “It will be subject to prosecution, there’s nothing wrong there. It would be different if you give optional retirement and there is waiver of criminal prosecution… that’s a different matter. That will be unlawful,” Panelo said.

    As to Espenido’s inclusion in the narco list, Panelo said he was unaware of it.

    Espenido was placed on floating status after Gamboa recently implemented a major reshuffle in the police force.  

    Prior to the reshuffle, Espenido appeared to be getting strong backing from higher-ups after his role in neutralizing major drug traffickers in the southern Philippines.

    De Lima reacts

    Sen. Leila de Lima described as “ironically amazing” that Espenido is now in the President’s drug list.

    Detained at Camp Crame on a drugs charge, De Lima released a statement saying: “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 knows?

    “Let’s see how this new mystery would unravel in the increasingly messy terrain we now have under an unstable leader. As I always say, this regime can never defeat or destroy the truth,” she added.

    De Lima also maintained her innocence, saying: “I am certain that Espenido knows a lot about the lies thrown at me, particularly my alleged links to Kerwin Espinosa (a self-confessed drug trafficker).”

    The senator said Espenido and Espinosa both lied when they linked her to drugs as a protector or beneficiary of the illegal trade before the Senate hearings.

    “I was never in the so-called ‘blue book’ or ‘pink book’, or whatever it is,” she said. ,

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    edited February 14

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    Espenido breaks his silence: PNP committed failure of intelligence on drug list

    Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido believes that PNP officials, including top cop General Archie Gamboa, have failed him in verifying information about him

    MANILA, Philippines – Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido, the drug war poster boy who was included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s own drug list, has broken his silence, accusing his higher-ups of committing “failure of intelligence.”

    “It’s not only a failure, it's a frustration of the intelligence community,” an exasperated Espenido said in a phone interview with Rappler on Monday, February 17.

    He added: “It was a failure of intelligence-gathering because hindi nila nai-process (they failed to process the information).”

    Espenido believes that his name was planted in the controversial drug list by well-connected people, who whispered to his superiors that he was involved in the illegal drugs trade.

    He also believes that PNP officials, including top cop General Archie Gamboa, failed him in verifying information about him. This is the first time in recent police history that a police official spoke openly against his own superiors.

    Espenido denies drug links:

    Espenido said his name was first included in 2016, months after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, but he recalled being cleared from the list after his name was supposedly verified to be clean.

    He was surprised when he was called to fly from Bacolod to Manila for a meeting with Gamboa in Camp Crame on Friday, February 7, after he was relieved.

    At around 2 pm, he made his way to Camp Crame’s Multi-Purpose Center or the MPC, expecting a small meeting. But when he arrived, he saw hundreds of cops, some of them surprised and wondering why he was there.

    Hoy, Jovie, andito ka? Kasali ka?” he recalled cops he knew telling him. (Jovie, you’re here? You’re included?)

    It was when he already sat down that he saw the letters flashed onstage. He recalled seeing, “Chief PNP with 357 national watchlist identified drug-listed personalities.” He said it was too late to stand up and walk out.

    Espenido disappointed with Gamboa:

    After Rappler broke the story that he was included in the drug list, Espenido had promised to remain silent unless top cop Gamboa confirmed his inclusion in the list.

    He decided to speak out after Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed that his name was on the list before Gamboa could.

    He expressed disappointment in Gamboa and police officials for supposedly not checking his name before he was ordered relieved.

    May authority talaga siya right then and there na makapagsabi na ‘go’ or ‘no go’ (He has the authority to say ‘go’ or ‘no go’). Because that is the prerogative of the chief, PNP,” he said, noting that it was only a matter of time before journalists asked questions about the list.

    He added: “Ikaw ang chief, PNP. Baka mabalikan ka, kasi ang mga tao, nakatingin sa ’yo as the head of the PNP.” (You are the PNP chief. This might go against you, because the people are looking at you as the head of the PNP.)

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    Año insists narcolist is reliable

    MANILA, Philippines —It is entirely possible that Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido’s inclusion in President Rodrigo Duterte’s narcolist is based on intrigue or that his name cropped up in an investigation but that does not mean that the list submitted to the President is unreliable, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

    “I think his name was included because of some intrigue or the intelligence agencies came across him on their radar,” said Año, a former military intelligence official before serving as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.

    But Año insisted that there would have been some basis for each of the 357 policemen included in the list because it was collated not only by the Philippine National Police but also the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Intelligence Service of the AFP, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and National Bureau of Investigation.

    At the same time, however, Año said a “validation process is necessary so Lt. Col. Espenido can defend himself,” Año said.

    Despite the uncertainty over the list, however, all the policemen were put on floating status pending the validation process, similar to a preliminary investigation process prior to the filing of charges.

    Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Espenido’s former boss at the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), also suspected that the list was based on outdated information.

    Unverified allegations

    The senator said Espenido knows no reason for him to be included in the list except for unverified allegations in 2016 that he was involved in the drug trade when he was chief of police of Albuera town in Leyte.

    Espenido was the police chief in Albuera when drug suspect Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed in his cell by policemen who said they were serving a search warrant.

    Espenido was later transferred to Ozamiz City where a police raid led to the killing of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., who was also linked to the drug trade, and 14 others.

    “He cannot understand and he feels somewhat bad that he was included on the basis of something old and was already resolved,” Lacson said over dwIZ.

    Lacson vouched for Espenido, whom he described as a man of integrity and dedication, when they worked together in PAOCTF.

    The so-called narcolist was based on the list that Mr. Duterte revealed two years ago and included 357 policemen, ranging from patrolman to brigadier general and including 43 who are absent without leave and 15 who have since sought optional early retirement. Only 299 remain on the list.

    PNP chief Archie Gamboa has formed a group to validate the list within 30 days, after which the list will be resubmitted to the President.

    Año said the validation process would also be good for Espenido “so if the issue crops up again under a different administration, he already underwent the process that cleared him. This is to Lt. Col. Espenido’s advantage in the long run.”

    Needs validation

    He noted that Mr. Duterte’s trust and confidence in Espenido is a big thing “but this needs to undergo the [validation] process

    At the same time, Año clarified that opting for early retirement does not necessarily clear the 15 policemen who have applied to do so and their benefits could still be forfeited should there be sufficient evidence against them.

    The 357 policemen have all been temporarily assigned to the office of the PNP chief while they undergo validation and will not be holding any posts until the process is completed.

    PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac assured the policemen under investigation that the process would be the “opportunity for all policemen [in the list] to clear their names and for those who would be proven to be involved in the illegal drug trade to be charged and dismissed from the service.”

    The PNP spokesperson asked the public to give the monthlong adjudication process a chance and to “ignore reports coming out” for the time being.

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    Espenido may seek government protection

    The Palace on Thursday said that controversial police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido may seek protection from the government if he fears for his life after being tagged in President Duterte’s narcolist.

    Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President will not allow any harm outside of legal processes to come to anyone, including Espenido, who has often been described as a “drug warrior” for his bloody record during drug operations.

    Espenido was confirmed to be among the 357 policemen on the drug list. 

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