CEBU, Philippines – Wish granted, at least on the part of Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido.
No less than President Rodrigo Duterte announced he will have the police officer assigned in Iloilo.
At the Libingan ng mga Bayani on National Heroes’ Day, Duterte told Espenido, “You asked for assignment sa Ozamiz, namatay ang mayor doon. Ngayon gusto mo sa Iloilo, kasi si Mabilog.”
Mabilog was included on Duterte’s list of local chief executives allegedly involved in illegal drugs, an allegation Mabilog has denied repeatedly.
Also on the list are Iloilo Mayors Mariano Malones of Maasin, Alex Centena of Calinog, and Siegfredo Betita of Carles.
The three also denied links to narco-politics.
Duterte had labeled Iloilo as “most shabulized” and “bedrock of drugs,” particularly a “transshipment point” of illegal drugs in the Visayas.
Under normal circumstances, Espenido cannot hold the position of city director or even deputy city director given that he only holds a rank of chief inspector or police major.
A city director should have a rank of senior superintendent or police colonel. Usually, a chief inspector holds the designation of police station, and not a police office.
Supt. Gilbert Gorero, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office (PRO) – 6, said they will wait for an official order on Espenido’s reassignment from Camp Crame.
Speaking for PRO-6 Director, Chief Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, “we welcome any officer who will be assigned in Western Visayas.”
Following Duterte’s pronouncement, Mabilog said:
“Gina-abi-abi ko gid ang pag-assign ni Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido diri sa Iloilo, although wala pa nabal-an kon sa city or sa province. Naga-laum ako nga mabuligan kita ni Chief Inspector Espenido nga lubos nga matapna ang problema sa illegal drugs. Sigurado may matun-an kita sa iya experience sa pagpakig-away sa droga, ilabi na sa pagtukib kon sin-o ang bag-o nga ‘players’ kag kon sa diin ini sila nagapanago,” he said.
(I welcome the assignment of Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido here in Iloilo, although I don’t know if he would be assigned in the city or province. I hope that Chief Inspector Espenido could help us to completely stop the problem on illegal drugs. Maybe, we would learn something from his experiences in fighting illegal drugs, especially on how to unearth the players and where could they be hiding.)
Further, “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 level. Bukas pirmi ang aton pa-ino-ino sa mga ideya kon paano pa gid mahugot kag mapabaskog ang aton kampanya batok sa illegal drugs (I am always opent o the idea on how to further strengthen the campaign against illegal drugs).”
“I look forward to working side by side with Chief Inspector Espenido as the President’s point man in the battle against illegal drugs in Iloilo, both city and province,” Mabilog added.
While Espenido had been vocal about wanting to be assigned in Iloilo City, Ilonggos did not foresee Duterte’s announcement.
Even PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who was in Iloilo City last August 14 said he had no plans of assigning Espenido there.
“Sa ngayon maraming problema doon sa Ozamiz, doon muna siya,” dela Rosa was quoted as saying.
“Di ba kaya ng Ilonggo na mga pulis dito? Ang daming magagaling na pulis na Ilonggo na pwedeng magtrabaho,” Dela Rosa said.
Meanwhile, some sectors regarded Duterte’s decision as being contrary to his pronouncement last August 21 that Iloilo’s illegal drugs situation has mellowed with the death of suspected drug lords, Melvin Odicta Sr. and his wife, Meriam, in August 2016.
Duterte said the Odicta couple was the alleged supplier of illegal drugs in the Eastern side of the Visayas while the Parojinogs of Ozamiz City supplied narcotics in the Western side.
“Iloilo was the hotbed, ngayon medyo wala na,” Duterte has said.
The following day, August 22, Mabilog even thanked the President “for at least recognizing the efforts being done here in the city of Iloilo in his campaign and war against illegal drugs.”
Espenido’s last two assignments were marked by the deaths of Mayors Rolando Espinosa Sr. of Albuera, Leyte and Reynaldo Parojinog and his family in Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental.
Espinosa and Parojinog were also among the government officials Duterte accused of protecting the illegal drug trade.
In recent interviews, Espenido did not bat an eyelash when he said that he wants Iloilo City to be his next assignment.
Meanwhile, in Cebu City, Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he is not keen on having Espinido replace Cebu City Police Office chief Joel Doria.
“Ok ra nako as an addition. I will think twice as a substitution because Doria is doing a good job. At least given nana nga he’s working well and I’m trying to help him out,” Osmeña said.
Espenido said earlier he does not mind getting assigned here, considering he is from Cebu. He said his knowledge of the place and its people will be an advantage in dealing with the illegal drugs problem here.
Sought for comment, City Councilor David Tumulak said he admires the bravery of Espenido but the latter cannot replace Doria for technical reasons – by reason of rank.
How then would he rate Doria’s performance?
Tumulak said the police chief needs to work on cleansing the police ranks, considering reports 10 percent of the existing workforce at the city police office is allegedly composed of scalawags.
“Dili kaingon nga satisfied (performance of Doria). I would give 7.5 out of 10 (ratings),” Tumulak said. — Jean Marvette A. Demecillo and Gregg M. Rubio (FREEMAN)