MANILA - Albuera police chief Jovie Espenido's alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade came as a surprise to officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the chief PNP said Wednesday.
Espenido was among the narco-cops tagged by Kerwin Espinosa during the Senate probe on the death of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr.
"May advance info na tayo diyan (pero) nagulat kasi kasama siya (Espenido) doon sa agresibo sa anti-drug operation natin sa Region 8," PNP chief Ronald Dela Rosa said at the sidelines of the congressional probe at the Senate.
(We receive advance information on that but I was still surprised because Espenido is among the cops who are aggressive in the fight against illegal drugs in Region 8.)
"Wala pa ako info doon nung pag-assign ko sa kanya. Lumabas lang yung info na yun pagbalik ni Col. Ferro galing sa Abu Dhabi noong nakausap nila si Kerwin," Dela Rosa added.
(I did not have that information yet when I assigned him there. I got that info when Col. Ferro came back from Abu Dhabi after talking to Kerwin.)
In his testimony, Espinosa named several police officials, including former police chiefs of Albuera, Leyte, who received weekly payoffs for protecting his drug business.
He said the payoffs ranged from P5,000 to P15,000 monthly.
Espenido neither admitted nor denied the allegations and simply said it was Kerwin's "right" to say what he wants during the congressional probe.
Dela Rosa paused for a few seconds before he declined to comment on whether or not he believes the allegations against Espenido.
"Tauhan ko sila... I do not want my comments to affect the investigation," Dela Rosa said.
He said most of the police who were linked to the illegal drug trade have been reassigned to other areas, but their salaries and benefits will not be suspended until they have been proven guilty by a court.
The PNP has yet to draw clear plans on what to do with cops that have been implicated in the government's intensified campaign against illegal drugs, Dela Rosa said.
"Ewan ko anong gagawin ko sa mga taong ito. Ang dami nila, baka maubusan ako ng pulis," he said.
(I don't know what I would do to them. There are so many (narcocops), I might run out of men.)