"GO THERE and you are free to kill everybody."
President Rodrigo Duterte said this was his order to Police Colonel Jovie Espenido, the newly-assigned deputy city director for operations of Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO).
Duterte, who spoke at the 45th Philippine Business Conference and Expo at The Manila Hotel on Thursday, October 17, said Bacolod is badly hit by illegal drugs which is why he placed Espenido in the city.
"Tinatakutan nila na pulis," he said referring to Espenido, adding to "start killing them. Dalawa na tayong magpa-preso (The two of us will be in prison)."
Espenido, who assumed post at the BCPO on Wednesday, earlier said that "life is very precious" following speculations on a "bloody Bacolod" with his anticipated arrival in the city.
He said he is not expecting to have a "bloody" stint in the city as he was assigned to handle the planning and managerial tasks at the headquarters.
"I will just obey the orders and continue to be aggressive against illegal drugs," he said in a media interview.
Though, Espenido said he will be more hands on in dealing with paper works with his current designation.
The police official, however, urged drug users and drug pushers to surrender and stop their involvement in illegal drugs.
The Malacañang earlier said the controversial policeman, linked to the killings of alleged narco-politicians, is the President's response to complaints of illegal drugs proliferation in Bacolod City.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte was confident that Espenido would help his administration fight the proliferation of narcotics in Bacolod.
"Kasi nasa Bacolod ako. Maraming nagpunta sa akin nagrereklamo on drugs. So sinabi ko kay Presidente, maraming report dito, ganito, ganyan the Palace official said earlier.
(I was in Bacolod. Many went to me to complain about the presence of illegal drugs there. So, I told the President about the complaints I've received.)
"Ang sabi niya sa akin, 'Kaya nga nag-ano si Espenido. 'Yan ang response ko diyan sa problema ng Bacolod,'" he added.
(He told me, “That's why Espenido was transferred. That's my response to the drug problem in Bacolod.”)
Espenido gained prominence for leading operations against suspected narco-politicians, like Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog.
Espinosa was gunned down inside his detention cell in Baybay, Leyte, in November 2016 while Parojinog was killed in a raid on his residence in Ozamiz City in July 2017.
The police official was the Albuera police chief when Espinosa was shot dead. He was reassigned to Ozamiz shortly after the incident.
He was still the Ozamiz police chief when the raid on the Parojinog properties were conducted. Parojinog and 14 others were killed.
Espenido was conferred an award by the President for his contribution to the government's war on illegal drugs as police chief of Ozamiz and Albuera.
From Ozamiz, Espenido was supposedly going to assume as Iloilo City police chief in 2017. But the appointment was withdrawn because lower rank officials did not qualify him for the position of city police chief.
Espenido also had brief stints as head of Catanduanes and Samar police in 2018, prior to his reassigment to Ozamiz City.
On January 12 this year, Duterte fired Bacolod City Police chief Francisco Ebreo for allegedly being a "drug protector."
Apart from Ebreo, the President also sacked Superintendents Richie Yatar and Nasruddin Daud Tayuan, Senior Superintendent Allan Rubi Macapagal, and Senior Inspector Victor Paulino for their alleged role in the rampant sale of illegal drugs in Bacolod.