Feeling ‘insulted’ by media, Gamboa keeps mum on Espenido

Rambo Talabong
Feeling ‘insulted’ by media, Gamboa keeps mum on Espenido
PNP chief Gamboa says he promised not to answer questions from Rappler again after it broke the story on Lieutenant Colonel Espenido being part of Duterte's drug list

MANILA, Philippines – After journalists reported on the inclusion of drug war poster boy Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido in the drug list of President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Archie Gamboa said he felt “insulted” and then refused to comment on the issue.

Ang sinabi ko naman sa inyo, respect our [cops]. Nakiusap naman ako, nakiusap ako na ‘wag na sana natin tingnan ang mga personalities [sa drug list]. And here comes the issue of (Rappler reporter) Rambo. I feel insulted with that,” Gamboa said in an ambush interview with reporters in Camp Crame on Thursday, February 13.

(I told you guys to respect our cops. I requested that you don’t look at personalities in the drug list.)

When reporters pressed for his comment, as Espenido deferred to Gamboa for his own comment on his inclusion, Gamboa said, “As I said, I will not answer it.”

When Rappler asked a question at the end of the ambush interview, Gamboa said, “Nag-promise na ako na hindi na ako sasagot kay Rambo (I already promised that I will not answer Rambo).” He then said thank you and walked away.

Why the anger? On Wednesday, journalists reported that Espenido was included in President Duterte’s watchlist after sources confirmed Espenido’s presence in a meeting on Friday, February 7, convened by Gamboa with cops who were in the President’s drug list.

During the meeting, Gamboa offered the cops the option of early retirement so that they can cut themselves off the PNP, which effectively also allowed them to avoid possible administrative charges and retire with untouched benefits.

When the Friday meeting ended, the top cop ordered his officials to be tight-lipped about the meeting and the people they saw there, stressing that their cops were innocent until proven guilty. The Duterte administration has a record, however, of releasing drug lists even if they know that they could not translate inclusion in it into criminal charges that could be proven in court.

Gamboa himself later disclosed to the media that they had 357 cops in the President’s drug list, but declined to disclose more information. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.