More than bluster

It has been more than three years since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power on the promise that he would eradicate the illegal drug problem in just three months.

More than bluster

Despite the killing of thousands of suspects in a bloody war on drugs, the problem clearly proved more intractable than candidate Duterte believed. As President, he sought an extension to his own self-declared deadline when it was apparent that fulfilling his campaign promise would take a little longer than expected.

Nowadays, the President doesn’t even speak of deadlines. Rather, he uses bluster and threats of further violence.

On Thursday, the President told police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, who has gained notoriety for leading raids in which several narco-politicians were killed, that he is “free to kill everybody” in Bacolod, where he has been posted as deputy city director for operations.

“Bacolod is badly hit now and I placed Espenido there, the police officer that they fear,” the President said in a mix of English and Filipino. “I said, ‘Go there and you are free to kill everybody. Start killing there. Let’s just go to jail together.’”

This bluster and bombast are in sharp contrast to the President’s low-key approach to his own former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), who resigned after being accused in Senate hearings as a protector of so-called ninja cops, 13 policemen accused of reselling millions of pesos worth of illegal drugs seized a raid in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013.

Albayalde, two former police officers testified, intervened in the dismissal order against the ninja cops, who worked under him when he was police director for Pampanga. He even admitted to one of the witnesses that he only got a small cut from their operations.

These offenses—the reselling of seized narcotics and the cover-up that followed—strike at the heart of Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, yet all he has said on the matter is that Albayalde, as chief of the PNP, deserved to be heard and presumed innocent.

The PNP, after Albayalde’s abrupt departure, has been equally non-committal, saying it will let “fairness and due process of law” take their course.

The PNP statement came a day after the Senate Blue Ribbon and justice committees recommended the filing of criminal charges against Albayalde and the 13 policemen who served under him when he was still Pampanga police chief.

“The PNP will let justice, fairness, and due process of law take its [sic] course. All accused remain innocent until proven guilty,” the PNP said in a statement sent to reporters in response to questions about the Senate findings.

“We leave it to Police General Oscar Albayalde and the other concerned PNP personnel, with their respective legal teams to address the other side issues that may come with their possible criminal indictment as recommended by the Senate panel,” the PNP statement said.

Side issues? The ninja cops are not a side issue, they are a central problem in Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs.

At the very least, the President and the PNP should condemn the act of reselling confiscated drugs and any attempts to cover it up. Instead, all we get are generalities about how the justice system is supposed to work—with no word on how time and again, it is circumvented by evil men.

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Oscar Albayalde , Philippine National Police , Jovie Espenido , Ninja Cops
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