President Rodrigo Duterte believes in the innocence of Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, the controversial police officer who was later revealed to be part of his drug list, the Palace said Friday.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said a black propaganda seemed to have been waged against Espenido, who led the operation that led to the killing of the mayors allegedly linked to the illegal drug trade.
“Lt. Col. Espenido continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President. PRRD [Duterte] believes that the reports [on] his alleged involvement in prohibited drugs are untrue,’’ Panelo said in a statement.
“There appears to be a black propaganda waged against Lt. Col. Espenido to besmirch his reputation in the eyes of PRRD and the Filipino nation, and to derail his unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs.”
But Senator Panfilo Lacson said.
Espenido’s alleged inclusion in President Duterte’s drug list was the reason for the failure of the government’s drug war.
“Espenido’s case, if true, could be one big reason why the war against illegal drugs is failing,” Lacson said.
Still,Panelo said Malacañang would be validating whether Espenido was indeed in the President’s “narco list.”
Earlier in the day, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed Espenido’s inclusion in the government’s drug watch list.
“Yes, that’s true and he will also undergo validation and possible investigation,” Año said.
Espenido gained notoriety in the administration’s anti-drug campaign when two suspected narco-politicians ended up dead in the towns where he had been chief of police.
He was the chief of police of Albuera when the 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.
Duterte had praised Espenido for leading those operations.
Police chief Archie Francisco Gamboa had refused to confirm if Espenido was included in the watch list, saying he had promised those on the list that he would not publicize their names.
However, Gamboa confirmed that Espenido was relieved from his post as Bacolod City police deputy chief for operations, adding he was already in Camp Crame.
He earlier said 357 policemen were linked to the illegal drug trade and 15 of them had availed themselves of optional retirement with benefits.
Meanwhile, 43 of them had gone AWOL or absent without official leave. With Macon Ramos-Araneta