CHIEF Inspector JovieEspenido, the chief of police of Albuera, Leyte, summed up the integrity and credibility crisis facimg the Philippine National Police (PNP) when he said: “Again, I say [that]I don’t want to convince anybody. Pero sa totoo lang po, walang drugs kung walang pulis na involved [Bur the truth is, there won’t be a drug problem if there are no policemen involved in the drug trade].”
Espenido’s statement at the joint hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs and the committee on justice and human rights last week, echoed what most Filipinos once suspected and have now confirmed, with the testimony of alleged Visayan drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.
In his judicial affidavit before the Senate committee, Kerwin narrated how he spent millions of pesos in drug money as standard operating procedure (SOP) to buy the protection of top PNP officials and their underlings in Eastern Visayas.
He revealed the names of the beneficiaries of his “generosity,” from lowly policemen manning the checkpoints to the highest ranking police officers in the region. Kerwin narrated how he also issued checks totaling P6million to alleged middleman Victor Espina, the brother-in-law of the former PNP officer-in-charge, retired Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, in February 2015, with the first payment of P3 million as an “advance” of the monthly “payola” to Chief Supt. Asher Dolina, former Eastern Visayas regional police director. He recounted making a second payment to Espina of P1.75 million for the purchase of guns, and another P1.23-million as the latter’s “agent’s fee.”
Kerwin claimed he has bank statements to prove the check deposits. When asked by the senators if he could produce the checks, Kerwin said all the documents of his drug transactions were taken by Espenido after the latter raided the Espinosa residence in Albuera.
If so, PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa should immediately order Espenido to turn over all the confiscated documents to his office so he can unravel the drug network of Kerwin in Eastern Visayas–-and obtain the “smoking gun” evidence against rogue cops involved in the illegal drug trade.
Kerwin’s testimony revealed how drug money has corrupted the nation’s police agency and how deeply entrenched police corruption from the narcotics trade has become. And with the drug menace affecting all 17 regions of the country, we are certain the SOP scheme of drug traffickers like Kerwin is being replicated nationwide. As Senator PanfiloLacson disclosed during the committee hearing, many policemen now scoff at the “payola” from “I.G.”, or illegal gambling, because the payoff from “I.D.”, or illegal drugs, has proven to be more lucrative.
Undoubtedly, there will be those who would dismiss Kerwin’s exposé as an exaggerated narrative from a polluted source–-an admitted criminal at that. Except that there are those from within the PNP like Espenido who are candid and brave enough to call a spade a spade.
In fact, another ranking PNP official recently admitted how the drug menace had tainted the ranks of the police agency. The regional director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas, Chief Supt. NoliTaliño, said the illegal drugs trade in Cebu and other parts of Central Visayas thrived due to the presence of “protectors” in the police. “Drug lords won’t be successful without protection from the police,” Taliñosaid.
Taliño also revealed that there are police officers still in active service under his command who are suspected to be drug protectors. “Until now, I know there are still policemen who continue to be part of illegal drug groups here in Cebu. There are still those who are not loyal to the police organization. To be honest, I do not know who are with me although I know some policemen who are trustworthy,” he said.
There is some glimmer of hope though that the PNP may be able to purge itself of the “bad eggs.” The PNP chief has vowed to pursue reforms within the police agency. “I’m having a very difficult time but I will never surrender. I can do this. I won’t back down. I will clean the PNP,” Bato promised. We’re sure all law-abiding Filipinos are hoping he succeeds.
But if Bato really wants the PNP to earn the public’s trust and regain its credibility, he cannot do it from the shadows, or by way of a so-called “internal cleansing,” as some of his colleagues have suggested. To ordinary Filipinos, “internal cleansing” is just another word for a “whitewash” or “moro-moro.”
The PNP chief should crack down hard on rogue policemen involved in the drug trade in a very visible, open and public campaign, much like his “Oplan Double Barrel” program against high-value targets like drug lords and big-time distributors as well as street-level drug personalities.
This time, however, the reincarnation of “Oplan Double Barrel” should target high-ranking police officers along with ordinary cops involved in the drug trade either as protectors or as dealers. Given the millions of pesos being made by narco-traffickers and thrown around as SOP or protection money, as can be gleaned from Kerwin’s testimony, there should have been more policemen exposed and charged.
Contrary to the belief of some PNP officials, the public cleansing of rogue cops within their ranks will boost the morale of the majority of the country’s policemen who are straight, dedicated and hardworking. Only a very visible and honest-to-goodness campaign to rid the PNP of scalawags in uniform will restore the tarnished credibility of the police organization.