MANILA - Malacañang on Tuesday denied that Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido was assigned to Iloilo City to hound Mayor Jed Mabilog, the city's chief executive included on President Rodrigo Duterte's list of alleged narco-politicians.
Espenido had served as police chief in two areas where the mayors, both linked to illegal drugs, ended up dead.
"There is no need to single out Mabilog. It is just part of the President's campaign versus illegal drugs," Abella said in a press briefing.
"Espenido is going to be part of a whole government approach (against illegal drugs) that includes police action and prevention and rehab[ilitation]. He is expected to work with the whole government," Abella said.
Abella said there was "no specific spelled out reason why Espenido is being assigned" to Iloilo.
"It is a sign that his work in Ozamiz is done," Abella said, of the officer's last assignment.
Duterte announced Espenido's next assignment in a televised speech during the National Heroes Day commemoration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City Monday.
The President said he decided to assign Espenido to Iloilo City after the police official said he wants to go after Mabilog.
Espenido was chief of police in Albuera, Leyte when its former Mayor Rolando Espinosa was shot dead in detention in November last year.
Last month, Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, his wife Susan and 14 others were killed by police in an anti-drug operation, when Espenido was still the city's police chief.
"You asked for the assignment sa Leyte, namatay ang mayor doon. You asked for another assignment sa Ozamiz, namatay ang mayor doon - si Parojinog. Ngayon gusto mo sa Iloilo kasi nga si Mabilog has been identified as a protector," Duterte said.
Mabilog earlier said that he has been reaching out to Duterte but has failed to schedule a meeting with the President.
Abella said there was "no word" on why the President did not respond to the Iloilo mayor's requests.