Supt. Jovie Espenido a game-changer in 2019?
posted 21-Oct-2018  ·  
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It took just a snapshot of a PNP reassignment order to send social media buzzing, at least in this part of the country.

It was something out of the ordinary police procedure, prompting even one official to suspect the order as likely a fake. But recent news reports have confirmed the reassignment of Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido to Catanduanes.

The PNP chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde, confirmed that the controversial drug war cop has been reassigned to Catanduanes to a post that required an officer with the rank of superintendent. One report said Espenido is the new police chief of Virac, now being handled by an officer-in-charge, while another quotes he will be the police chief of Catanduanes, meaning Camp Francisco Camaho will have to be vacated by the current OIC, Senior Superintendent Jonathan Panganiban.

For now, it will probably not matter where Espenido will end up sitting. What would matter more is what he would do here once he gets briefed on the illegal drugs situation in the province.

He has been assigned in Albuera, Leyte where he raided the house of Mayor Rolando Espinosa and in Ozamiz City, with the police chief leading a bloody operation in the latter city in 2017 that led to the killing of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 11 others. Lately, his name came up in the news once again when Ozamiz City Executive Judge Edmundo Pintac was killed by motorcycle-riding assailants last Oct. 8 as he was driving home, his police escort having gone on leave without a replacement.

There is no indication whether his being brought here is somehow a ‘punishment’ for the judge’s death as well as his being charged for the Parojinog raid, or whether he would be the “avenging angel” who would finally unlock the mysteries of the moribund shabu lab investigation.

What is certain is that his arrival here will bring with it fear for the lives of drug personalities and a gnawing dread among local officials that his brand of violent anti-illegal drug operations would set back years-long efforts to lure tourists to this paradise island.

Indeed, even before he assumed his post, Chief Insp. Espenido has already vowed to go after politicians involved in illegal drugs and other illegal activities in Catanduanes. “There will be no sacred cows in our campaign,” he allegedly said in a radio interview.

Coming at the unofficial start of the campaigning for the May 2019 national and local elections, his reassignment to Catanduanes would likely prove to be a game-changer.

At the helm of the provincial police office, Espenido would be a tough enforcer of laws against those involved in illegal drugs, considering his reputation.

People would well remember that only one drug suspect, Davao-born Mark Agullana, has died in scores of local anti-drug busts, shot seven times in 2016 by member of a police team that consisted largely of operatives from the Regional Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group. The other supposedly PNP-sanctioned hit, on a Viga public school worker in 2015, was admitted then recanted by PO1 Vincent Tacorda, now recently retired from the service.

What would change things though, as far as local politics and criminality are concerned, is the possibility of Supt. Espenido going after “other illegal activities.” And there are a lot of other illegal activities: illegal cutting of trees, illegal gambling, illegal fishing, and, the most difficult to eradicate, vote-buying.

In the past, police chiefs either closed their eyes to rampant vote-buying or intercepted loads of cash destined for northern towns, often at the direction of a powerful politician.

With two obviously-loaded figures facing off for the governorship and four other equally-stacked politicians going after the congressional seat in seven months, the people would find it Espenido either a kill-joy or breath of fresh air if his office indeed clamps down on all illegal activities.

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