SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga: Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, whose crack team has killed two mayors linked to illegal drugs, has a new assignment: to run after another alleged protector of drug syndicates: Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
President Rodrigo Duterte himself gave the assignment to Espenido, whom he awarded the Order of Lapu-Lapu for “extraordinary service” on Monday.
“You (Espenido) ask for assignment? You were assigned to Albuera, and the mayor died. You got Ozamiz, the mayor died. If you go to Iloilo, mabuhi kaya siya (will he [Mabilog] live)? He has been identified as a protector of drug personalities. I am asking you now because I might be the one they will point to again [when the mayor dies],” Duterte told Espenido.
“Your next assignment is Iloilo,” he added.
Duterte called on Mabilog to stop his supposed involvement in the illegal drug trade or face the consequences.
“I’ll tell you again, mayor, dinadawit ka [you are being implicated]. For the longest time, you are included in the updated list [of drug protectors]. Frankly, you may want to stop your [drug]connections while nothing is happening yet,” Duterte said in San Fernando, Pampanga, where he assuaged public concerns over the avian flu virus.
“Do not protect, do not call the police like this, like that. Do not just mess up with the…because if you are in cahoots with them, you are also a drug lord. I will be forced [to act on it],” he added.
Mabilog denied the alleged drug links in a radio interview on Monday and issued a statement welcoming Espenido.
“I welcome the assignment of Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido in Iloilo, though it’s not yet known if it’s in the city or the province. I hope Chief Insp. Espenido can help us so that the problem on illegal drugs can be completely eradicated,” the mayor said.
“Surely we will learn something from his experience in fighting illegal drugs, especially in discovering ‘new players’ and where they’re hiding,” he added.
“In the city of Iloilo, I will share with him our own strategies and compare notes on how to win this war at the barangay (village) level. We always welcome ideas on how to tighten and strengthen our campaign against illegal drugs.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, a second cousin of Mabilog, said Espenido’s reassignment to Iloilo was a “cause of concern,”
Espenido and his team were part of police raids that led to the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. on Nov. 5, 2016 and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 15 others on July 30, 2017.
‘Be a drug lord and die’
Duterte repeated his stern warning that any public official linked to the illegal drug trade would get killed.
“If you are not content on your salary, then leave. Be a drug lord instead. You would get billions of pesos but in turn, you will die,” the President said.
“We don’t have to fool each other. To those who are rich already, stop [performing illicit acts]. Stop it. Stop because it will jeopardize the lives of the next generation. I will not allow it,” he added.
Duterte said Espenido and other policemen have a specific order: implement the law.
“I don’t need to lecture every time I say ‘You go into an operation against the terrorists, the drug lords.’ That will be a redundancy because they have been there for so many years. For four years they were drilled on the law of search and seizure. They know that already,” he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said he was confident Espenido knows the law.
“While there’s a load of doublespeak in the President’s marching order, ultimately, it is on Espenido’s account and responsibility to uphold the rule of law and follow the rules of engagement in his new place of assignment,” he said.
PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa said Mabilog had nothing to fear with Espenido being reassigned to Iloilo.
“He should be afraid if he is doing something wrong. If he is not doing something wrong, why should he be afraid?” de la Rosa told reporters by phone.
with LLANESCA T. PANTI, BERNADETTE E. TAMAYO AND RJ CARBONELL