Duterte orders return of 'drug war' cop Espenido to Ozamiz

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered controversial police official Jovie Espenido back to Ozamiz City in Misamis Oriental.

In the middle of his speech in the city on Wednesday, November 28, Duterte called up Philippine National Police chief Director General Oscar Albayalde to reassign Espenido to the city. (PROFILE: Jovie Espenido sans the uniform)

"I will commission [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana to bring back Espenido," the President said at the groundbreaking of the Ozamiz Airport Modernization Project.

He then asked his audience, "Gusto 'nyong ibalik si Espenido (You want Espenido to return)?"

Claps and cheers in the affirmative greeted him.

On the phone, Albayalde could be heard saying, "Yes sir, yes sir."

Espenido is currently assigned in Eastern Visayas, the PNP chief said. But back in October, the PNP announced Espenido had been assigned to Virac, Catanduanes, after his most recent assignments ended with the killing of mayors known to be involved in illegal drug trafficking.

One of these was Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr, who was killed on July 30, 2017, after cops served him a search warrant. Parojinog supposedly fired first, forcing the uniformed men to retaliate. At the time, Espenido was the city police chief.

Fourteen others were killed in that police operation, which Espenido was rewarded for.

He was also police chief in Albuera, Leyte, when former mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr was slain by policemen in a supposed "rubout" in October 2016.

In both cases, Espenido said there must be presumption of regularity in the deadly police operations. He added that he prefers all suspects be kept alive as he claims to be a devout Christian.

Last September, the Department of Justice indicted Espenido for 6 counts of homicide over the killing of 6 people during a police operation in Ozamiz City in 2017. This raid occurred two months before the operation that killed Parojinog.

In his Wednesday speech, Duterte warned local government officials involved in illegal drugs that he has "many more Espenidos."

He warned the Parojinog family that they would face death if they get involved in illegal drugs.

"The Parojinog family, stop threatening people. I will wipe you from the face of the earth. I’m telling you. I will really finish all of you off including the police. You better watch out. I’ll have you called in Manila. When you arrive at the airport, I’ll have you killed," he said. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.