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‘How do you deal with these idiots?’

If former president Rodrigo Duterte would have his way, he would take one of the police officers involved in the 990-kilogram shabu haul in October 2022 on a helicopter ride, flying at an altitude of 20,000 feet, and give him 30 seconds to identify the owner of the drugs. If the officer won’t respond, then he will be in free fall.

“They have the guns. They have the built-in arrogance. Belligerent. E ‘di ihulog mo!

In his weekly talk show “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” aired on Sonshine Media Network International, Duterte lamented that police officers are not just protectors of the drug syndicates.

“I think the police officers themselves are into drugs; hindi lang protector. They’re trying to cover up… Ang pulis mismo napasukan na, sila na mismo ang sindikato.”

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has become the “gatekeeper” of the illegal drug trade in the country, he said.

Even before Duterte became president in 2016, he had been known to favor summary executions for criminals, particularly those involved in illegal drugs, saying that court processes are often tedious and lengthy.

He has suggested that the entire PNP resign and allow the Philippine Army to take over the anti-drug campaign following the brazen involvement of several police officers in the irregularities following the October 2022 raid in Manila.

The October 2022 incident involved the seizure of 990 kg of shabu and the pilferage of an estimated 380 kg from the haul found inside the Wealth and Personal Development (WPD) lending office on Jose Abad Santos Avenue, Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Duterte said he was pondering for several days why nobody would speak up and identify the owner and the informant that led to the discovery of more than 1 ton of shabu in an office owned by a police sergeant. And then he came to the conclusion that it was because the operatives were themselves the syndicate.

Duterte should be reminded that the leaders of the “idiots” in the PNP that he was talking about regrouped when he was still president.

In the public hearings conducted separately by the Senate and House Committees on Dangerous Drugs, it came out that LtGen. Ferdinand Divina, then the acting director of the PNP’s Directorate for Intelligence, asked BGen. Romeo Caramat of the PNP Drug Enforcement Group (PDEG) to recommend police officers who were on Duterte’s drug watch list “that can be utilized for their possible reprojection for police operations on illegal drugs.” That was in March 2020.

Caramat then designated LtCol. Ariel Red, then chief of intelligence of PDEG’s Intelligence and Foreign Liaison Division, for “spotting activities.” Red told legislators that after some convincing, LtCol. Arnulfo Ibañez agreed and suggested that he take with him SSg. Rodolfo Mayo Jr. and SSg. Roman Jimenez.

It appeared during one of the hearings that Ibañez, Mayo and Jimenez were once together in Manila but were reassigned to the provinces when Sen. Ronald dela Rosa was PNP chief because they were among the operatives suspected of being “ninja cops,” or police officers accused of reselling or recycling the illegal drugs that they seized during police operations.

Now that he is no longer in power, Duterte has been suggesting actions that he did not take when faced with similar, if not worse, situations when he was still president.

In the October 2022 anti-drug operation, two generals were charged: LtGen. Benjamin Santos Jr., former deputy chief for operations, and BGen. Narciso Domingo, former PDEG chief.

In his 2021 State of the Nation Address, Duterte emphasized the need to “destroy all, from the [drug] manufacturers to the peddlers, because we are fighting a drug war that was being participated in… by nine generals of the PNP.” This was more than six years after he promised to crush the drug syndicates within three to six months of his term.

When he came to power in July 2016, Duterte named five generals allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade. A month later, he named another two on his narco list.

During his tenure, Duterte’s bloody war on drugs took the lives of more than 12,000 Filipinos, most of whom belonged to the country’s urban poor sector. Human rights groups place the casualties at three times more than the police count.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 2,555 of the killings have been attributed to the PNP.

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan, whose office is investigating the alleged crimes against humanity under the drug war, said Duterte “encouraged” the bloody crackdown on illegal drugs in the country.

Because of his “kill, kill, kill” order against suspected drug personalities, former ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda also said Duterte was “encouraging, supporting and, in certain instances, urging the public to kill suspected drug users and dealers,” indicating a state policy to attack civilians.

Now, his most loyal aides, Sens. Christopher Lawrence Go and De la Rosa, have been floating the idea of having Duterte appointed as the country’s drug czar.

Really, how do you deal with these “idiots?” Send them to jail, where the big-time drug lords continue to operate? Dismiss them from the service, so they can work full time with the syndicates? Or, as Duterte has suggested, “ihulog mo?”


The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.