President Rodrigo Duterte boasted to a roomful of businessmen last night that he had ordered the new chief of police of Bacolod City to “kill everybody” who was involved in the illegal drug trade.
In a speech delivered before attendees of the Philippine Business Conference and Expo in Manila, Duterte claimed that Bacolod City is “badly hit” by the drug trade, which is why he assigned Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido to head the city’s police force.
“That’s the cop everyone is afraid of,” Duterte said in English and Filipino. “I told him, ‘Go there and you’re free to kill everybody. Those f***ers. Start killing them. We can just both land in jail.'”
Espenido was the former police chief of Ozamiz City in Leyte, and became a controversial figure after he led the bloody multiple raids on the properties of then-Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog in August of 2017. The mayor and 15 other people were killed in the raids, including his wife, Susan Parojinog. Prior to the bloodbath at the mayor’s house, Duterte had accused the clan of being involved in the illegal drug trade, and has even threatened the remaining members of the family that they would be “wipe[d] off from the face of the earth.”
Prior to being assigned to Ozamiz City, Espenido was the chief of police of Albuera town, in Leyte. It was his during assignment there that Rolando Espinosa Sr., then the town mayor, was killed in November of 2016 by policemen while he was detained in his cell. Cops insisted that they had to kill Espinosa because the latter engaged them in a gunfight.
Espenido’s controversial history has led human rights advocates to express concern that extrajudicial killings in Bacolod might increase now that he has been assigned in that city. However, Espenido told The Philippine Daily Inquirer that he “will follow the rule of law” in his new assignment.
According to the Philippine National Police, almost 7,000 suspects have been killed in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs from July of 2016 to May of 2019. However, human rights groups maintain that the number is much higher. The Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said as early as December of 2018 that the death toll could be as high as 27,000.
At present, the International Criminal Court is conducting a preliminary investigation into the government’s drug war, despite Duterte’s unilateral decision to leave the organization in March of 2018 in protest of the inquiry. Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council is preparing a comprehensive written report on the drug war, which will be released sometime next year.
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