Opposition Senator Leila de Lima is puzzled on why a top police officer responsible for incidents of summary execution in the administration’s drug war found himself on the list of erring officers linked to the country’s illegal drug trade.
De Lima said she suspects that Police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, the administration’s poster boy in its bloody and brutal war on drugs, has fallen out of President Rodrigo Duterte’s good graces and is suddenly taken out of the anti-narcotics campaign.
“[Jovie Espenido] now in Duterte’s drug list? Ironically amazing! Espenido must know a lot to make him a target himself,” she said in a Dispatch from Camp Crame.
“Has he lost his usefulness? Or is he now a threat to his top boss because of what he knows?” she added.
Espenido gained national prominence after then Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa was shot dead inside his cell in Albuera, Leyte in 2016. He was then the town’s police chief.
When he was transferred to Ozamiz City in 2017, Espenido also led a series of raids that resulted to the highly suspicious death of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 15 others.
Duterte himself recognized the feats of Espenido and publicly ordered him to “go, start killing” in Bacolod City where he was appointed as deputy director for drug operations.
Since Espenido was in the forefront of the controversial “war on drugs,” De Lima maintained that he must know first-hand information about its sinister operations, including the conspiracy to create lies about her supposed links to the drug trade.
“I’m certain that Espenido also knows a lot about the lies thrown at me, particularly my alleged links to Kerwin Espinosa,” De Lima, the most prominent political prisoner of the Duterte administration, said.
“He knows that I’m not and was never a protector of the latter self-confessed drug lord; that I was never in the so-called “blue book” or “pink book”, or whatever it is, of alleged Espinosa protectors or beneficiaries of his illegal drug trade; and that he and Espinosa both lied when they claimed otherwise in the course of the Senate hearings,” she added.
News accounts initially cited unnamed high-ranking sources inside the Philippine National Police (PNP) that Espenido was included in the so-called “narco-list” of 357 police officers and officials.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied the report and called it “fake news”. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año later confirmed Espenido’s name on the narco-list and vowed to have Espenido investigated for possible links to drug trade.
“If the news report about his inclusion in Duterte’s drug list is true, who can now protect him? Let’s see how this new mystery would unravel in the increasingly messy terrain we now have under an unstable leader,” De Lima said. /Stacy Ang