City officials and residents here expressed surprise over reports that circulated over the weekend that Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido has been relieved of his post as deputy for operations and drug enforcement unit chief of the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO).
Espenido's relief and transfer to the Office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, effective February 5, was confirmed by the Police Regional Office 6 (Western Visayas) through its spokesperson Lt. Col. Joem Malong.
On Monday, Lt. Col. Ariel Pico, public information officer of BCPO, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that Espenido was no longer reporting to his office here as he was already at the PNP national headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Espenido's transfer came only three weeks after he started leading the city police anti drug operations, starting with Sitio Sibucao in Barangay Banago, an area known for the presence of several drug personalities.
Banago village chief Ricky Mijares, in an interview over Bombo Radyo Bacolod on Monday, expressed regret over Espenido's transfer.
When he was here, he said, residents not necessarily feared him, but they respected him.
Indi' ta man madala sa pwersa, nadala sila sa balatyagon (You can't force them to yield, but their feelings were touched), Mijares said.
On January 21, Espenido held a meeting with residents of Sibucao, in the presence of Mijares and other village officials, after conducting his first buy bust in the area on January 17.
Mijares added that Espenido's invitation for drug personalities to yield was welcomed by the people of Sitio Sibucao, and several of them surrendered through the barangay afterward.
On February 6, Espenido was still able to lead a buy bust operation in Sibucao.
Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr. said he did not want to speculate on why Espenido was ordered to leave Bacolod, but it seemed regretful that he was given a transfer order this soon.
Gamboa said he felt Espenido's sincerity during his talk with members of the City Council during a three hour closed door meeting last Thursday.
He means what he says, he says what he means. What you see is what you get. He is a no nonsense guy. That's why I was impressed with him. If you ask me, it seems a regret (that he was transferred), he added.
On Saturday, Col. Henry BiAas, city police director, said over Aksyon Radyo Bacolod that he did not know why Espenido was transferred but he assured city residents that with or without Espenido, the Bacolod police would continue its campaign against illegal drugs.
Although it would have been better if he is still here. His name alone instills 'fear'. It has an effect on drug personalities, he added.
A number of netizens who posted comments on Facebook also asked why Espenido was ordered to leave Bacolod while some gave various possible reasons for his relief.
Espenido joined the Bacolod police force in October last year upon the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, following his stint as police chief of Ozamiz City.
He took a vacation leave after he arrived in Bacolod, and formally started his assignment as chief of the City Drug Enforcement Unit in mid January.
Source: Philippines News Agency