Iloilo mayor welcomes Espenido: ‘We can learn something from him’

Rambo Talabong

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Iloilo mayor welcomes Espenido: ‘We can learn something from him’
(UPDATED) Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog is unfazed despite Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido's history of having two mayors dead under his watch

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After finding out that Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido will be assigned to Iloilo City, Mayor Jed Mabilog was unfazed.

In a statement released to the media, Mabilog said he welcomed the development, after President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech Monday, August 28, that Espenido will be assigned to Iloilo city.

“I welcome the assignment of Chief Inspector Jovie Espinido here in Iloilo… I’m hoping that Chief Inspector Espenido can help us in eliminating drug problems,” he said in Hiligaynon.

Mabilog said he can learn from Espenido, whom he dubbed as “the President’s point-man in the battle against illegal drugs.”

“I am pretty sure that we can learn from his experience in fighting drugs, especially in discovering the ‘new players’ and where they hide. In the city of Iloilo, I will share with him our own strategies and compare notes on how to win this war at the barangay level,” Mabilog said.

His response comes to light as the last two mayors that Espenido teamed up with ended up dead: Albuera town Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr was killed in a jail rubout under his watch, and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog was killed in a search operation which Espenido commanded.

Like the names of the two dead local chief executives, Mabilog is mentioned in Duterte’s list of mayors, judges, and cops linked to drugs.

Mabilog has been identified as a protector of the drug trade, and Duterte  has called the province where he serves as the mayor of the capital city as the “most shabulized” in the country.

In the re-assignment of Espenido, no less than Duterte joked about Mabilog’s fate working with the much-demanded cop, wondering out loud in his Heroes’ Day speech: “Mabuhi kaya siya? (Will he live?).”

Nothing to fear

According to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Mabilog should have nothing to fear if he’s clean.

“Matakot siya kung meron siyang ginagawang masama. Kung wala siyang ginagawang masama bakit siya matakot sa pulis (He should be scared if he engages in wrongdoing. If he’s clean, why should he fear the police)?” Dela Rosa said in the sidelines of the Heroes’ Day celebration where Duterte spoke.

Asked by reporters whether police still know of illegal activities by Mabilog, Dela Rosa said “Wala na siguro dahil patay naman si Odicta, wala na siyang maprotektahan (None, I think, because Odicta is dead, he has nobody to protect),” referring to alleged Iloilo top drug lord Melvin Odicta who was gunned down by an unknown assailant in 2016.

Dela Rosa recounted that Duterte at first joked about Espenido’s assignment and only committed to the decision before the announcement.

“Expected ko, pero not so much. Pero kanina sinabi niya… we will follow. Tinanong ko pa siya at sabi niya, kinonfirm ko sa Bisaya pa, sabi ko, sa tagalog, ‘Ano sir totohanin na natin ito?’ Sabi niya ‘Oo, hindi ako nagbibiro’,” Dela Rosa recounted.

(I expected it but not so much. But earlier, he said we will follow. I asked him and confirmed to him ‘Are you really up for it?’ He said ‘Yes, I am not joking anymore’.) –

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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.