Still Most Shabulized? TV5’s Aksyon Checks Duterte’s Iloilo Drug Figures
“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 si Mabilog has been identified as a protector-mayor. Mabuhay kaya siya?”
The president’s question to Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, chief of police of Ozamiz City, was asked to provoke laughter when Duterte spoke during the National Heroes Day celebration in Libingan ng mga Bayani last August 28. Media picked up grisly speculation about the fate of Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, whose name was included in the list of alleged narco-politicians around the county. Although Mabilog had repeatedly denied his involvement in the trade of illegal drugs, this reference reminded everyone that Espenido — who has repeatedly claimed that he is “pro-life” — may well be the anointed executioner of local drug lords.
Two mayors were killed under Espenido’s watch as police chief in two locations: Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa in an alleged shootout inside his cell in Baybay Subprovincial Jail, and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, Sr. in a police raid led by Espenido, when he was reassigned to this city. Asked by the media if he did request transfer to Iloilo City,Espenido answered it was “God’s will.”
Such presidential exchangeis a sinisterscene of the executions as a norm. That the remark was met with laughter in the audience suggests that at some point in this bloody season, the Duterte government, including those gathered to listen to his speeches, has become unhinged from the obligatory observance of due process.
This is not in defense of drug lords. But the law does say, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”
Unfortunately, none of the coverage of the occasion made note of this. Has media come around to accepting Duterte’s dismissal of due process and reports the joke he makes out of it, easing it into public mind as a norm? Such uncritical reporting makes journalists complicit in the failure to observe the rule of law.
Since that time, Espenido has been retained in Ozamiz, his reassignment to Iloilo cancelled on September 2. On September 1, Richard Prevendido, an alleged big-time drug lord in Iloilo City was killed in a shootout with the police. Prevendido is the third drug personality in Iloilo to be killed in the war on drugs. Last year, Melvin and Meriam Odicta were killed by unidentified men.
CMFR cheers TV5’s Aksyon for putting into context the drug situation in Iloilo, using official data. The report recalled a VERA Files story disproving the president’s claim that Iloilo is the “most shabulized” area in the country.CMFR previously cheered this article.
Aksyon reported that Iloilo did not rank among the provincial hotbeds according to Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) figures. As of August 2016, Iloilo province was 79thof 81 provinces and 27 cities in terms of the number of drug-affected barangays per province, with Iloilo City ranked 51st.
Aksyon also quoted Iloilo police who said Mayor Mabilog has no record of being involved in illegal drugs; but also featured Senior Supt. Remus Canieso, former Iloilo City police chief, who admitted that drugs still persist in the city.
The report forces the public to ask: How much more needs to be done to improve Iloilo’s drug situation? Is the government contemplating more executions in the province? Beyond Iloilo, will PNP transfer Espenido to another “shabulized” province? How many more times will he be reassigned?
The story reminds journalists to keep their eye on Espenido as well. His accomplishments in the drug war have already earned him awards, and Duterte’s list of alleged narco-politicians still carries a lot of names.