Pangasinan's Espino meets with Duterte, granted probe into drug matrix

CONTROVERSIAL. Former Pangasinan governor and incumbent Representative Amado Espino Jr.

Rappler screenshot

MANILA, Philippines – Pangasinan 5th District Representative Amado Espino Jr met with President Rodrigo Duterte and denied that he is involved in the illegal drugs trade inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“Yesterday, August 30, 2016, I was granted a private meeting with President Rody Duterte at Malacañang Palace. During the meeting, I categorically denied before the President any involvement in that [New] Bilibid Prison illegal drug matrix,” said Espino in a statement on Wednesday, August 31.

Espino told Duterte that he is “willing and ready” to face his accusers and all the evidence and witnesses that would be presented against him.

“In our meeting, the President granted my request for an immediate, thorough investigation and validation of the matrix that had been submitted to him,” said Espino.

The name of the Pangasinan governor-turned-lawmaker was in the matrix of the illegal drugs trade in the NBP that Duterte publicized on August 25.

Espino was tagged as the “richest politician in Northern Luzon,” who had “amassed unexplained wealth.” Espino was also linked to black sand mining, quarrying, and the illegal numbers game jueteng.

The matrix includes Espino’s longtime aide and Pangasinan provincial administrator Rafael Baraan, as well as Senator Leila de Lima and her supposed driver-boyfriend Ronnie Dayan.

Espino, Baraan, and De Lima flatly denied the President’s allegations.

“I am assuring the President that I and the leadership of the Pangasinan provincial government will continue to vigorously support the anti-drug campaign and other projects of his administration,” said Espino.

Espino’s reasons vs accusation

“A quick review of the immediate past will reveal that I cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be associated or have collaborated with Senator Leila de Lima in any undertaking or with any drug personality or drug syndicate, for that matter,” explained Espino, the chairman of the House committee on national defense and security.

According to him, the previous Aquino administration was “generally lukewarm and mostly hostile” toward him.

“For one, Pangasinan, along with the unlucky provinces, was continually deprived of the services of a full-time PNP (Philippine National Police) provincial director and, consequently, the governor did not enjoy the full support and cooperation of the provincial command,” said Espino.

He also reiterated that he cannot possibly be associated with former Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary de Lima, whom Espino said actively took part in a “sinister plot” to discredit his name during the 2013 elections.

At the time, De Lima authorized the investigation of a murder case against Espino, but he was later absolved of any participation in the crime in August 2015.

“Thus, I cannot really imagine how my name landed in that NBP matrix with Senator De Lima in the first place. Aside from our unpleasant relations with Senator De Lima, I do not even know anyone at all inside the NBP, and I do not know that driver and barely know retired BuCor Director Frank Bucayu,” said Espino.

The lawmaker added that he underwent several narcotics investigation courses in the military in the past. 

He was also one of the authors of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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