Duterte cites Espenido’s efforts in drug war

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File photo of Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido -- SENATE PRIB via Philippine Star

By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday ordered the police force carrying out his drug war to kill “idiots” who violently resist arrest shortly after a teenager was slain by cops in an anti-drug operation that sparked public clamor.

File photo of Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido — SENATE PRIB via Philippine Star

In his speech at the Heroes’ Cemetery on the occasion of National Heroes’ Day, Mr. Duterte departed from his prepared speech and addressed Jovani Espenido, the police chief of Ozamiz City where a longtime mayor allegedly involved in the narcotics trade was killed in a deadly police raid.

Mr. Duterte then announced that he will reassign Mr. Espenido to Iloilo City, saying the police officer requested to be transferred to the said city whose mayor was tagged by the President as a “protector” of drug traffickers.

“Your duty requires you to overcome the resistance of the person you are arresting….[If] he resists, and it is a violent one, placing in jeopardy the lives of my policemen, and of course, the military, you are free to kill the idiots. That is my order to you,” Mr. Duterte told Mr. Espenido.

“Because if there is violence, then you have to overcome that violence to bring him to the folds of the law, and you can put him under your custody,” he added.

Mr. Espenido led the raid last July 30 in the residence of Mr. Parojinog, the second mayor killed under the administration’s war on drugs. The first was Mayor Roland R. Espinosa, Sr. of Albuera City, where Mr. Espenido also served as police head.

Early this month, Mr. Espenido hinted that he will be transferred to another area with the “next target.”

Responding to Mr. Espenido’s reassignment to his municipality, Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, whose name appears in the President’s list of narco-politicians, told local newspaper Panay News that he will work with Mr. Espenido in solving the city’s drug menace.

“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,” Mr. Mabilog said.

“I look forward to working side by side with Chief Inspector Espenido as the President’s point-man in the battle against illegal drugs in Iloilo, both city and province,” he added.

Thousands of people have been killed in the course of Mr. Duterte’s brutal narcotics crackdown, with human rights watchdogs saying most of the fatalities are extrajudicial killings committed by cops and unknown assailants.

But the government has vehemently denied this and insisted that police are only killing in self-defense while gangsters are silencing potential witnesses.

With Mr. Espenido heading Iloilo’s police, Mr. Duterte said in the same speech yesterday that he now doubts if Mr. Mabilog will stay alive.

The firebrand leader also warned the mayor in a media interview later that day to stop protecting drug lords, or he will die.

“For the longest time, [in my] updated list, nandiyan ka (you’re there),” Mr. Duterte said.

Despite his harsh orders to policemen fighting his war on drugs, Mr. Duterte reminded them to follow the rules of engagement, saying “murder and homicide and unlawful killings” were not allowed and that police had to uphold the rule of law while carrying out their duties.

“Just follow the rules of engagement, the requirements of the performance of duty, which you have learned in… all those four years,” Mr. Duterte said.

But he also said: “But if he resists, and if it is a violent one, I hate to see dead policemen and soldiers performing their duty.”

The chief executive’s remarks came on the heels of the death of 17-year-old Grade 11 student Kian delos Santos in the hands of Caloocan City cops. The killing has generated condemnation in the country and abroad and sparked protests against the conduct of the drug war. — with Rosemarie A. Zamora