MANILA: The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is setting its sights on fighting not just criminals, but also rogue cops protecting them.
The new Philippine National Police (PNP) chief on Friday gave police coddlers of drug lords two days to surrender or face the consequences of defying President Rodrigo Duterte’s merciless fight against illegal drugs.
“Surrender in 48 hours or die,” Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa said in a speech during ceremonies for his assumption of office as the new PNP chief.
President Duterte led the ceremonies, ordering corrupt policemen in a speech to resign, vowing “zero tolerance” for rogue law enforcers, and promising “to die” for those who do their duty honestly.
“I will not run this country with a corrupt police,” Duterte said.
Government officials, lawmakers and diplomats attended the event, held at PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
“I will not tolerate, [I will have] zero tolerance for abuses committed by the law enforcement agencies, including the National Bureau of Investigation,” the President said.
Indicating he had information about corruption at the top levels in the PNP, Duterte said there would be a “major revamp.”
He said he knew the identities of high-ranking police officials involved in corruption and illegal drugs, and urged them to leave the service immediately.
“You know that I know, we all know, so you better resign. You have no more future in the police,” Duterte said.
It was the first time that Duterte spoke about corruption in the PNP since he said after his election in May that high-ranking PNP officials in Camp Crame were coddling drug lords.
Director General Ricardo Marquez, the PNP chief who retired on Tuesday, denied Duterte’s claim, but De la Rosa, talking tough like Duterte on Friday, warned those officials that their days were numbered.
De la Rosa, a former police chief of Davao City whom Duterte promoted over the heads of several higher-ranking officials in the PNP, warned the alleged coddlers of drug lords in the service, “This has to stop right now or I’ll stop you from enjoying your life.”
“I promise you, change is coming, including your birthday, which will be changed to November 2.”
Nov. 2 is All Souls’ Day.
De la Rosa also gave Manila policemen involved in the illegal drugs trade 48 hours to surrender or leave the service, be “full-time drug lords and fight us.”
Company of criminals
Duterte called on policemen to shun the company of criminals who, he said, like to have their pictures taken with mayors, police and military officials “to build a reputation of invincibility.”
“Do that, taint yourselves in the company of known criminals and [crime] syndicates [and] you will be sorry,” Duterte said.
He said he would monitor the records of policemen, warning that having been a mayor for 22 years, he knew how policemen broke the rules, like converting gasoline allocations into cash.
Young policemen should build a good track record, he said.
“I will plot your history, your personal history,” he added.
Officials transferred to other areas should stop the practice of bringing their own men with them, he said, adding that he knew the purpose of this was to raise money.
Duterte said he would not countenance the tactic of policemen facing charges of going on absence without leave to get their cases dismissed.
He said these policemen would surface only after they had bargained with the victims or when the victims were already gone then ask the courts to dismiss their cases.
Support for good cops
Duterte, however, said good policemen could count on him for support.
He said he would stake his life and his presidency to protect policemen who were doing their duty. He also promised to double their salaries and arm them well so they could fight crime more effectively.
“Do not bullshit with me. But do your duty, I will die for you. Do your duty and if in the process you kill 1,000 [criminals], I will protect you,” he said.
“And if [lawmakers] try to impeach me, I will hurry up the process and we go out of the service together,” he added.
Policemen should not hesitate to shoot suspects who fight back when they are being arrested, Duterte said.
“If there is resistance that [puts] your life in jeopardy, then by all means shoot and shoot him dead. That is my order,” he said.
Praise from Lacson
The President’s stand drew praise from Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a former PNP chief, who cited his experience with “trumped up harassment charges.”
In a statement, Lacson lauded Duterte’s “assurance of legal protection for police personnel who kill criminals in the line of duty.”
He said the President’s stand was a morale booster for policemen who may think twice before engaging criminals “for fear of being charged.”
“Many retired policemen, I’m sure, wish they had served under a Commander in Chief like President Duterte,” Lacson said.
Duterte has been criticised for his crime-fighting methods as the authoritarian mayor of Davao City, and he has been linked to so-called death squads that have killed more than 1,000 criminal suspects in the city.
But he insists he knows the limits of official power and he adheres to the rule of law.
At his inauguration in Malacañang (official residence of the President of Philippines) on Thursday, Duterte said he knew “what is legal and what is not.”
“My adherence to due process and rule of law is uncompromising,” he said.
At the PNP change of command yesterday, the President said the fight against drugs should be relentless to prevent drug lords from gaining influence anywhere in the country.
Military must help
Duterte said even the military should be involved in the fight against drugs.
He cited former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for raising the drug problem to the level of national security.
“So the Armed Forces must pitch in,” he said.
If he does not act now, the drug problem may become so big that drug bosses will gain influence all over the country, he said.
Duterte projected that if the government does not strike hard now, the Philippines could become a narco-state in two to seven years.
Facing the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday afternoon for the change of command, Duterte asked military officials to join the hunt for drug lords.
The President railed against convicted drug lords who he said continued to operate in New Bilibid Prison.
“You are embarrassing the government,” Duterte said, referring to the imprisoned drug lords. “It’s like you’re slapping us.”
The he warned them: “Count the hours. I don’t want it to take days.”
At the turnover of command, Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya replaced acting AFP chief Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda.
The AFP chief of staff, General Hernando Iriberri, retired in April. - Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network