Espenido breaks his silence: PNP committed failure of intelligence on drug list

MANILA, Philippines – Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido, the drug war poster boy who was included in President Rodrigo Duterte’s own drug list, has broken his silence, accusing his higher-ups of committing “failure of intelligence.”

“It’s not only a failure, it's a frustration of the intelligence community,” an exasperated Espenido said in a phone interview with Rappler on Monday, February 17.

He added: “It was a failure of intelligence-gathering because hindi nila nai-process (they failed to process the information).”

Espenido believes that his name was planted in the controversial drug list by well-connected people, who whispered to his superiors that he was involved in the illegal drugs trade. (READ: Big funds, little transparency: How Duterte's drug list works)

He also believes that PNP officials, including top cop General Archie Gamboa, failed him in verifying information about him. This is the first time in recent police history that a police official spoke openly against his own superiors.

Espenido denies drug links: Espenido said his name was first included in 2016, months after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, but he recalled being cleared from the list after his name was supposedly verified to be clean.

He was surprised when he was called to fly from Bacolod to Manila for a meeting with Gamboa in Camp Crame on Friday, February 7, after he was relieved.

At around 2 pm, he made his way to Camp Crame’s Multi-Purpose Center or the MPC, expecting a small meeting. But when he arrived, he saw hundreds of cops, some of them surprised and wondering why he was there. (READ: PNP allows general in Duterte drug list to retire early with benefits)

Hoy, Jovie, andito ka? Kasali ka?” he recalled cops he knew telling him. (Jovie, you’re here? You’re included?)

It was when he already sat down that he saw the letters flashed onstage. He recalled seeing, “Chief PNP with 357 national watchlist identified drug-listed personalities.” He said it was too late to stand up and walk out.

Espenido disappointed with Gamboa: After Rappler broke the story that he was included in the drug list, Espenido had promised to remain silent unless top cop Gamboa confirmed his inclusion in the list.

He decided to speak out after Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año confirmed that his name was on the list before Gamboa could.

He expressed disappointment in Gamboa and police officials for supposedly not checking his name before he was ordered relieved.

May authority talaga siya right then and there na makapagsabi na ‘go’ or ‘no go’ (He has the authority to say ‘go’ or ‘no go’). Because that is the prerogative of the chief, PNP,” he said, noting that it was only a matter of time before journalists asked questions about the list.

He added: “Ikaw ang chief, PNP. Baka mabalikan ka, kasi ang mga tao, nakatingin sa ’yo as the head of the PNP.” (You are the PNP chief. This might go against you, because the people are looking at you as the head of the PNP.) –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.