(UPDATED, December 3, 2016, 12:30 a.m.) PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Friday night admitted it was him who called up Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald de la Rosa to reinstate a police official linked to the drug trade in Eastern Visayas.
In an apparent bid to quell the brewing controversy, Duterte cleared his long-time aide, Christopher “Bong” Go, of any hand in the reinstatement of Supt. Marvin Marcos, head of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Eastern Visayas.
Duterte, in an interview with CNN Philippines, claimed he needed to keep track of Marcos’ movements.
“It’s like this. I ordered Bong Go to call. By the time he passed it on, de la Rosa answered. I said, do not remove the guy because he’s included … I am doing an investigative job,” the President said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Duterte said the investigation was over and Marcos’ supposed drug links turned out “positive,” while the Eastern Visayas police director, Chief Supt. Asher Dolina, was “cleared.”
“I was keeping track of his (Marcos’) movements. If you remove me there, it would all be gone. I won’t be able to follow the trail,” he explained.
Marcos’ reinstatement caused a stir as he was part of the CIDG team that raided a Leyte jail and killed detained Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. last November 5.
Espinosa’s son Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr. told a Senate inquiry last month Marcos asked for money to fund the election campaign of his wife who ran for vice mayor.
De la Rosa was put on the spot after admitting on Thursday that a Malacañang “kumpare” or friend told him to reinstate Marcos.
On the same day, Sen. Leila de Lima, a vocal critic of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, told reporters it was an “open secret” that Go called up de la Rosa, citing a source in the PNP.
Go has denied the allegation as “hearsay” and “unsubstantiated.”
‘Face the charges’
On Friday, the PNP chief rejected de Lima’s call for him to identify his “kumpare.” At any rate, de la Rosa said, Marcos and his CIDG men were relieved after the killing of Espinosa Sr.
Duterte told CNN Philippines Marcos “has to face the charges.”
“Let him maintain the right to be heard,” he added.
Speaking earlier Friday before a graduating class of the PNP Highway Patrol Group’s motorcycle riding course in Davao City, Duterte said: “It’s not true that Bong Go made the call.”
Duterte then declared that Marcos was tainted with drug links while Dolina’s reputation was clean. “Dolina is clean. Marcos is not,” he said.
Dolina was accused by the Eastern Visayas drug kingpin, Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa Jr., in last month’s Senate inquiry of receiving drug protection money.
Malacañang on Friday also called on de la Rosa to identify his “kumpare” who sought the reinstatement of Marcos.
“We will find out first who ‘kumpare’ is because it’s a big issue that the public also needs to know about,” Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Marie Banaag told reporters.
Banaag, however, echoed de la Rosa and said the matter was “water under the bridge” as Marcos and his men had been relieved following their raid into the Leyte prison that resulted in the killing of Rolando Sr.
“They were not [reinstated]. Marcos and his allies, they are in restrictive custody,” the Palace official added.