Jovie Espenido's secret to fighting crime? His faith

MAN OF GOD. Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido testifies in the Senate.

Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido became popular after news broke that another mayor linked to crime died under his watch. Many have requested that he be transferred to other towns so that he can quell crime and corruption.

For his efforts, he will be recognized with a special award by the Philippine National Police.

It comes as no surprise, as according to him, Ozamiz City enjoyed two months of being crime-free under his leadership. He has also disbanded drug groups during his tenure in Albuera, Leyte.

His secret to the clamor and recognition? Prayer.

‘Yun talaga ang pinaka-arm namin ng pulis as enforcer: ang Panginoon,” Espenido said in a dzBB interview. (That’s the very weapon of us police officers: the Lord.)

Every time the clock strikes 7, his cops band together inside their office, not for an operation briefing, but to read the bible.

Best practices talaga namin magworship, 7 nang umaga at gabi sa estasyon kami lahat,” Espenido said. (It’s really our best practice to worship at 7 in the morning and at night in the station, all of us.)

Religion does not matter, as long as they share in the silence, he said. The session varies at length as designated speakers may take more minutes should they have something more to share.

After their apologies, thanks, and wishes have been lifted up, “banat na (it’s out to the field)." The hours that follow are when the blood flows.

Espenido recounted that Parojinog is already the 4th mayor he encountered being linked to illegal activities.

He said he first caught a mayor in Ormoc for patronizing illegal logging operations. Afterwards, he seized a mayor who illegally kept firearms in Gandara, Samar. Both mayors did not die during his term, he said.

Mas maraming nahuli, mas maraming buhay kay sa namatay. Bilang enforcer, hindi talaga kami [puwedeng] madali sa operation,” he said. (There are more who were caught than killed. As an enforcer we really can’t get killed in operation.)

Better alive than dead

While he was laudable for his anti-crime operations, he took the spotlight when he handled the Espinosas of Albuera, Leyte where former mayor Rolando Espinosa was slain by policemen in a supposed “rub out”.

The death streak began when Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog died after cops served the mayor a search warrant. Parojinog supposedly fired first, forcing the uniformed men to retaliate.

While there are already body counts tallied under his watch, Espenido said he prefers his suspects alive than dead. After all, he first became a devout Christian in 1987 before wearing the blue of the PNP in 1996, he said.

Buhay talaga dapat para mafile-an natin ng complaint. ‘Di natin mafile-an kung patay,” he said. “ [Ginawa natin ang] sa tingin natin na karapat-dapat gawin,” he added. (They really should be alive. Because if they were dead, we wouldn’t be able to file cases against them. We did what we think was right.)

For his efforts, his special award will be handed to him by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself.

Despite the praise, he quipped that he would be nothing without his faith.

‘Yang accomplishment natin di natin magagawa. Wala si Espenido because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Kaya dependent talaga tayo sa bible, sa Panginoon, kung hindi, wala tayong magawa,” Espenido said.

(That accomplishment, we can’t do that. There won’t be an Espenido because we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. That’s why we are really dependent on the bible, on the Lord, if not, we wouldn’t be able to do anything.) –

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.