THE Palace on Tuesday denied the assignment of Police Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido to Iloilo City was meant to single out its city mayor Jed Mabilog, who was included in a list of more than 150 government officials by President Rodrigo Duterte allegedly involved in the drug trade.
“I don’t think there is any need to single out Mabilog in that sense, but it is simply part of the President’s overall campaign against illegal drugs,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a Palace news briefing.
Malacañang’s denial coincided with Espenido seeking the dismissal of the criminal charges against him arising from the killing of nine suspected robbers during an operation last June.
Espenido appeared before the Depatment of Justice and submitted his counter-affidavit denying the murder and arbitrary detention charges filed by relatives of Francisco Manzano, one of the slain suspects killed during a reported shootout with the police last June 1 in Ozamiz City.
The police official denied the allegation of rubout in killing the suspects during the series of raids in Cabinti and Balintawak villages where six other suspects were arrested.
“I specifically deny all of her allegations. Obviously, her accusations are all fabricated and a product of the concoctions at the instance of her grandmother, who has been used by Mayor Parojinog and his group as a toll against me,” Espenido said in his affidavit.
“It is very unfortunate that complainant has succumbed to the pressure by the Parojinog group. Understandably, she is helpless. I know fully well that this case is sponsored by the Parojinog group because the suspects involved were members of their armed group, and, more importantly, to stop me from doing my job as a police officer,” he added.
According to him, it was a legitimate operation and that the robbery suspects were killed after they shot it out with the policemen.
“It was a legitimate police operation. In fact the complainant herself has a sworn statement that it was the group of the criminals who fired their firearms first even before the police could disembark from their vehicles,” Espenido’s lawyer Andres Fernandez said in an interview after the hearing.
While Abella did not justify the need to assign Espenido, who has earned a reputation of running after narcopoliticians, to Iloilo”•which Duterte earlier described as the ‘most shabulized’ in the country, he said it was part of the President’s “plan of action” to counter the ill effects of the drug trade.
“Espenido is going to be part of the whole government approach which has something to do with prevention, rehab, and so it’s going to be a whole government approach. He is expected to work with the rest of the whole government,” Abella said.
Espenido’s new role, announced on Aug. 28, follows the bloody raid which led to the death of alleged narco politician and Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. and 14 others.
Espenido was also the chief of police in Albuera town, Leyte whose former mayor with alleged drug links, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was killed in November 2016.
Iloilo has been alleged to be a den of illegal drugs and its city mayor, Jed Patrick Mabilog, has been included in a list of more than 150 government officials allegedly involved in the drug trade.
Abella instead called on the public “to unite with the state in our campaign aginst drugs through both police action and drug prevention and rehab with full respect for law, for human rights, and the rule of law, which is the pledge of the President.”
Asked if the President would meet with Mabilog, his spokesperson simply stressed that Duterte would be “willing to sit with him.”
Duterte awarded Espenido for his contribution to the government’s war on drugs as chief of the Ozamiz City Police Station and as previous chief of Albuera, Leyte.
He led policemen in the killing of Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife and 14 others during predawn raids in his house last July 30.
The slain mayor’s children, Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez and Reynaldo Jr., were arrested during the raids and later on indicted on charges of drug possession and illegal possession of firearms.
Last Monday, President Duterte announced that Espenido would be assigned to Iloilo City following reports that Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog was protecting drug traders.
Asked if Mabilog would be the next mayor to be slain in the war on drugs after Espinosa and Parojinog, Espenido said he would not be able to say for sure.
“[It will be] God’s will… Let’s just wait when I’m there in Iloilo already if the mayor will die,” he told reporters in the DOJ.
However, Espenido again stressed that he is “pro-life.”
“I am pro-life, a professional law enforcer. Those who do no wrong have nothing to fear,” he said.