CHIEF Insp. Jovie Espenido, the former Ozamiz City police chief, has been designated by Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa as officer-in-charge of the Iloilo City police. He can’t be the regular police chief in that major city because his rank is two levels below the minimum requirement, which is at least senior superintendent. No problem because he is already up for promotion.
But before Espenido could even set foot on Iloilo, his superiors are already raising the bar for him as far as battling the illegal drugs trade in the city is concerned. President Rodrigo Duterte is targeting Iloilo Mayor Jed Mabilog, whom he included in his list of narco-politicians early on and whom he wants probed for his wealth now. Dela Rosa, meanwhile, has described Iloilo as the “most shabulized” in the country. The message there is for Espenido to purge Iloilo of illegal drugs and to also focus on Mabilog.
Espenido, in a way, has become like the nation’s version of Cebu City’s SPO1 Adonis Dumpit at the height of the vigilante-style operations in the city years ago: his reputation as one who rides roughshod over due process preceded him. It reached a point that wherever Dumpit was assigned, the expectation was he would cleanse the area of suspected criminals, by hook or by crook.
It is not surprising that in his media interviews after his assignment to Iloilo was announced, Espenido repeatedly intoned that he is pro-life. He also clarified the “coincidences” that shaped his image nationwide as law enforcer. He wasn’t responsible for the death of Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa when he was the police chief there and the death of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog was a result of a legitimate clash.
Yet people, especially supporters of the Duterte administration’s war against drugs, seem not to listen to his protestations and instead expect Mabilog, who has denied links to the illegal drug trade, to also suffer the fates of Espinosa and Parojinog. Which is unfair to Espenido, who has insisted that his main intention in Iloilo is merely to clear the place of illegal drugs--regardless of whether that may hit Mabilog or not--and not to engage in a killing spree.