MANILA - He is a devout Christian who instituted a twice a day worship practice among his men to pray for peace in their city, but Ozamiz City Police Chief Jovie Espenido believes the Parojinogs of his locale "deserved to die."
"Maski yung masamang tao, kung hindi talaga ibigay ng Panginoon, hindi talaga. Experience ko yan. There was a time na ang dami nang magreklamo na rapist, pinatay pa yung enemy, so ikaw kung may anak ka rin, hindi pwede 'to," he told ANC's Headstart in an exclusive interview aired on Friday.
(Even the bad persons, if God wouldn't allow it, it really wouldn't happen. That was my experience. There was a time when a lot complained about rapists and killings, and that's not okay with you if you have children.)
"Pero yun na hiningi natin sa Panginoon: Lord kung bigay mo sa amin yan mas maganda pa; kung hindi rin, okay rin," he added.
(But that's what we ask God: Lord, if you'll give this to us, that's good; but if not, that's okay too.)
Espenido was the local police chief when a bloody raid inside the homes of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., resulted in the deaths of the mayor, his wife, and 14 others.
Parojinog was one of the local government officials named in President Rodrigo Duterte's narco-list. He earlier denied any involvement in the illegal drugs trade.
Espenido said they deserved to die "100 percent" because of the multitude of people whom they have offended.
"Deserve to die, yes. 100 percent. Ang daming taong na-ano nila, ang dami," he said.
He said some 41 pastors invited him over when he was only starting his stint in Ozamiz after being transferred from Albuera, Leyte. He said these religious leaders told him no police chief in the last 40 years dared to stand up against the powerful clan.
"Ikaw lang, Chief. Ikaw ang hulog ng langit," he recalled them telling him.
(It's only you, Chief. You are sent by the heavens.)
"[Sabi ko,] Try natin sa abot ng mga kaya natin. Tao lang ako, basta hindi lang sana mag-abot na magtrabaho tayo, pagkatapos maganda na yung trabaho natin hindi pa natapos i-transfer naman tayo," he said.
(I said we will try our best. I am only human, if only it wouldn't reach the point where while we are already working, and our work is already good but is unfinished, we will already be transferred.)
He said he urged these pastors to be "prayer warriors" because "nothing [is] impossible."
"Yun naman na ang hangad natin, kayo naman mga pastors malapit kayo sa Panginoon. Talagang tatanggapin yan," he recalled telling them.
(That is what we want, you're pastors and are close to God. That really will be heard.)
THE BLOODY RAID
Espenido said he and his men were met with gunfire the moment they entered the premises of the Parojinogs' home to serve the search warrant they secured from Manila.
He said his own men were part of the "entering party" while members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group were in charge of the search.
The police chief said that during the raid, which was conducted in darkness because of a brownout, there were many armed men who would come and go inside the house.
"So assuming na may mga baril, putok na putok maski magpasok sila. Pagdating namin sa pintuan kasi steel window yan, may putok na kaagad. Parang malaki yung putok sa entrance talaga," he said, adding that one of his lead scouts was shot.
(Assuming that there are guns, just shoot even if they are entering. When we arrived by the doorstep, there was a steel window, we were shot immediately. There was a powerful shot just by the entrance.)
Espenido said he was focused on the raid inside the mayor's home and thus did not know what exactly was happening in the other Parojinog homes.
Asked if his men could have been involved in a "rubout", he said: "Could've been. Ang sa akin naman makapagsabi ako sa totoo sa akin. Hindi naman [magsabi] doon sa iba…In fairness naman sa iba, nagtrabaho."
(It could've been. For me, I can say the truth for myself, not for others. In fairness to some, they do work.)
"But then na inano (sinasabihan) natin sa mga police natin, kung ano ang tama, tama talaga," he added.
(But then we encourage our policemen to do what is right.)
The security personnel of Parojinog's daughter, Vice Mayor Nova Parojinog, was killed in a raid in her home, while no one was killed in a raid in her brother Reynaldo Jr.'s home, said Espenido.
"Talagang in-implement, kasi ang sabi natin, as long as mag-hands up, wag talaga, maski anong baril ang nandiyan sa kanya. Yun lang, protocol natin," he said.
(It was really implemented, because our instruction was as long as they put they hands up, don't shoot no matter the firearm is around. That's our protocol.)
Espenido said he respects the statements of people who claim that the raid was meant to wipe out the Parojinogs.
"But then sa atin true sa ebidensiya naman, documentation. So let the court will decide kung ano talaga ang totoo," he said.
(But for us, we have evidence, documentation. So let the court decide what is true.)
"Ako naman, obligado tayo, magpapakulong kung may problema. Bakit natin hindian kung tayo’y nagkasala? Wala naman tayong perpekto. As long as sinunod natin yung manual, saka yung tamang observation ng implementation ng search warrant," he added.
(I am obligated to be incarcerated if there are problems. Why would we resist if we indeed erred? We are not perfect. As long as we followed the manual and the right observation of the warrant.)
A WARNING TO NARCO-MAYORS
With already 2 town mayors killed while he was the local top cop, Espenido had received remarks that they died because of him.
He said he would be "obedient" and follow Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa on where he would be assigned next.
However, he said he would want to finish what he has started in Ozamiz first.
"I-clean muna natin. Kawawa naman. Yun ang kinabahan ang mga tao doon kung hindi pa matapos, pababayaan lang doon. Ang pulis ganun pala parati. Dapat tapusin lang muna dapat ito," he said.
(Let's clean this up first. They're pitiful. People were nervous about that, that we will leave this hanging. The police had always been like that. We should finish this first.)
But if there is one mayor with alleged drug links he wants cleared next, it's the ones in Iloilo. If it's God's will that he is sent there, he said he would welcome the assignment.
"Gusto ko kasi yung extreme na mayor, yung para bang pinaka-kritikal na mayor para masubukan ko kung ang Panginoon ko, makaya ba doon," he said.
(I want the extreme mayor, the most critical one so I can test if my God can handle that.)
The "fearless" police chief also has this warning to narco-politicians: just resign.
"The better, mag-resign para ma-extend yung buhay na nasa labas ka. Hindi naman sinabing mamatay. Yung sa atin, ma-extend yung buhay mo na free ka, wala kang problema. Yun lang, para matapos na ang problema," he said.
(It would be better if you just resign to extend your life outside. I don't mean that they would die. For me, it's to extend your life as a free man, without problems. That's it, to stop the problems.)