Three of 5 PNP “narco generals” now in Napolcom custody
President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of a bloody war on drugs convinced thousands of self-confessed drug pushers and users to surrender to police, and has led to accusations of corruption at the highest levels of law enforcement.
During a televised speech on Tuesday, July 5, Duterte accused three high-ranking police officials and two retired police generals of contributing to the “deterioration of law and order” by aiding Philippine drug cartels.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Chief Joel Pagdilao, Western Visayas Regional Director Chief Supt. Bernardo Diaz and Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Director Chief Supt. Edgardo Tinio have all been relieved of their posts, according to Duterte.
The new president also lodged accusations against Vicente Loot, former PNP general and current mayor of Daanbantayan, Cebu, and former PNP Deputy Director, Gen. Marcelo Garbo Jr.
“Imbestigahan ninyo ito at ‘wag ninyo akong bigyan ng zarzuela (Investigate this and don’t give me a farce),” Duterte said.
Loot, Diaz, and Tinio have publicly denied the president’s allegations. They say the president is misinformed, and has potentially biased future proceedings by publicly shaming them.
“Because of that statement, I will be tried by publicity,” Loot told ABS-CBN News. “I hope I will be given a chance to face my accuser… and clear my name.”
Pagdilao, Diaz, and Tinio met privately with Duterte’s newly appointed Director General of the PNP, Ronald Dela Rosa on Wednesday, July 6 before being turned over to the National Police Commission (Napolcom). He said the accused were given a chance to tell him their side of the story, and have pledged to cooperate with the investigations against them. Dela Rosa described their meeting as “purely intimate and personal.”
“All other details sa aming usapan, sa’min na lang ‘yun. Basta malungkot sila (All other details that we spoke of are ours only. They are sad [about what is going on]),” said Dela Rosa on Wednesday. He added that, “Kung meron man (evidence), they’re all classified [documents] …hindi ko puwedeng i-divulge (if there is also evidence, they’re all classified documents. I am not allowed to divulge [that information]). ”
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno told the Philippines News Agency that the recently sacked PNP officials will receive a fair trial. Napolcom undertook the investigation of all five generals suspected of working for drug dealers, but only has jurisdiction over active police officers.
During Tuesday’s speech, Duterte warned officials and citizens to not get involved with the drug trade, or else they face being killed.
“I’ve been warning everybody. Do not destroy my country because I will kill you. Do not destroy the youth of my country because I will kill you,” he said.
Duterte’s vow to end drugs is also slated to reach the classrooms.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones revealed on Monday, July 4 that drug education will be strengthened and taught to students, as early as the age of 10.
“I think what needs to be added are [pointers] on how children would know that they are being drawn in, how they should say no, and how and where to report if they are offered illegal drugs,” Briones said, according to Inquirer.
The new president — dubbed “The Punisher” — campaigned largely on a promise to eradicate crime in the Philippines within his first six months in office. Since his landslide victory in May, law enforcement agencies throughout the country have ramped up operations, especially against drug-related crimes.
Those who don’t surrender risk losing their lives. The president has called upon citizens to shoot suspected drug dealers that resist arrest, and has promised legal protection to police who kill criminals in the line of duty. Duterte has also offered bounties to cops for killing drug lords, while cautioning members of the police force that they are not beyond scrutiny.
“Oo, attainable ‘yan; kaya ‘yan. Hindi kaya kung hindi tayo kikilos at ang komunidad hindi tutulong (Yes, it is attainable, we can do it. It is only not attainable if we do not move and if the community will not help),” said Dela Rosa to reporters on Tuesday, May 31.
As the former director of the Davao City Police Office, Dela Rosa was credited with reducing the circulation of illegal drugs in the city by 60 percent, according to Philstar. However, human rights groups allege that Dela Rosa has connections to the “death squads” responsible for the vigilante murders of more than 1,400 people since 1998, Reuters reported.
“As far as I know, wala akong death squad. During my time, legitimate operations ang ginagawa ko. Napapatay namin ‘yung kalaban through legitimate operations (As far as I know, I do not have a death squad. During my time, legitimate operations were what I did. We only killed our enemies through legitimate operations),” said Dela Rosa in May.
One of the strategies Dela Rosa employed in Davao, named Oplan Tukhang (Operation Plan tuktok-hangyo), sent officers to each home of a neighborhood to offer potential suspects a chance to turn themselves in. Dela Rosa has exported the tactic throughout the country since becoming the PNP’s Chief.
Almost 1,400 alleged criminals surrendered to the authorities in Quezon City, Taguig, Pasay and San Juan, two days after the president officially took office on June 30. In Leyte, Sarangani, Rizal and Pampanga, over 1,100 people turned themselves in to police. Prior to Duterte’s inauguration, more than 200 people from Agusan del Sur and Sarangani had also submitted themselves to police custody in June.
“Sumuko kami dahil sa batas ni Duterte. Natakot kami sa kapulisan baka anuhin kami. May pamilya kami kaya natakot kami (We surrendered because of Duterte’s law. We were scared of the police because they might [hurt] us. We have families that is why we were scared),”Allan Looc, a drug user, told GMA News.
Drug-related killings have been on the rise since Duterte won the election last May. At least 45 people with suspected links to drug trafficking were killed in different operations in Bulacan. There have also been 63 drug-related deaths recorded in many parts of the country. Meanwhile, in Tondo, Manila, a man was found dead with a note saying “Drug Lord Ako (I am a Drug Lord).” Other bodies displaying similar messages have turned up throughout the country.
“It’s going to be a dirty fight. It’s going to be a bloody fight. I am not apologizing for it,” said Duterte during Tuesday’s speech.
The uptick in murders committed by police and incidents of apparent vigilantism has drawn the concern of human rights groups and the Catholic Church. In spite of the violence, supporters of the crackdown have told the general public that they have nothing to fear.
“I will assure the public that kami ay mga pulis, hindi kami kriminal, susunod kami sa police operational procedure (I will assure the public that we are policemen, not criminals, [and] we will follow police operational procedure),” said Dela Rosa.(With reports from Joseph Almer B. Pedrajas)