PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Chief Archie Gamboa on Monday, February 17, debunked Vice President Leni Robredo's statement on a possible cover-up involving the 357 police officers on President Rodrigo Duterte’s illegal drugs watchlist.
“Wrong statement, because no basis. I-adjudicate pa nga namin eh. Why would you say we are protecting them? Had we intended to protect them bakit namin nilabas ‘yung 357?” Gamboa said in a press conference in Camp Crame.
In a radio program over the weekend, Robredo had said that the PNP should ensure that the 357 cops would be punished or else public trust in the national police agency would be eroded.
She made the statement after Duterte expressed support for Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido, a police officer commended for his role in the bloody war on drugs but has been reported to be among the 357 cops on the watchlist.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano had confirmed Espenido’s inclusion in the list.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, said Duterte believed that Espenido is “clean” and that he appears to be a victim of black propaganda “to derail his unrelenting campaign against illegal drugs.”
Espenido was the police chief of Albuera, Leyte when its mayor, Rolando Espinosa, was gunned down while in detention for illegal drugs.
Espenido was also the police chief of Ozamiz City when its mayor, Reynaldo Parojinog, was killed along with 14 others during simultaneous raids.
Both were included in the President’s list of narco-politicians.
Año said the statement of the President is a big factor in Espenido’s removal from the drugs watchlist.
“Well malaking bagay ‘yung binitawan ng Pangulo at ito sabi ko nga sa iyo ang final authority to approve sa pagtanggal ng listahan ay ang pangulo so malaking factor yan,” he said.
For his part, Gamboa refused to comment on the pronouncements of Duterte and Año.
Of the 357 policemen who will undergo the adjudication, one died a few days before the existence of the list was divulged.
Garcia said 43 others were marked Absence Without Official Leave for failing to appear in his office when he gathered the embattled cops while 15 others have availed of early retirement.
He said the cops who attended the meeting in his office all tested negative for drug use.
Gamboa reiterated that availing of early retirement and going on AWOL will not spare them from adjudication proceedings.
“We are trying to cleanse the PNP pero kapag sinabi ko namang mag-optional retirement ka, it's not na guilty ka. Probably kaya sabi ko we have to be honest, tingnan nyo kung sino mag try sa inyo kung sino ‘yung composition ng board and if you think you cannot get rightful adjudication, validation then you can free yourself by optionally retiring. This is an easy way out in terms of PNP custody at kung guilty ka nga naman baka mahiya ka naman na nagpapatuloy ‘yung suweldo mo tapos hindi naman maganda ang ginagawa mo,” he said.
“But again I emphasize hindi ibig sabihin na nag optional retirement ka na hindi ka na namin iimbestigahan, andun pa rin yan at kung ma-prove namin na kasama pa rin dapat doon sa watch list then we will place you under our monitoring and build criminal cases against you because kapag wala ka na sa PNP we cannot pursue the administrative case hindi ba pero on the criminal side we can still pursue,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)