A LITTLE more than a month before his retirement, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa has begun to bid goodbye to his men, starting with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Wednesday.
“Maybe after this, we will be busy during the Christmas season. Maybe after New Year, I will not have time to talk to you because I’d go straight to retirement,” de la Rosa said in a speech during the inauguration of the CIDG multi-purpose hall.
De la Rosa will retire on January 21, 2018 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.
Speculations were rife in August that de la Rosa would retire early to give way to Deputy Director General Ramon Apolinario, one of the top bets of President Rodrigo Duterte for police chief.
De la Rosa squashed the rumors, saying that he would finish his term so as not to disappoint the President who handpicked him as police chief on May 2016 after Duterte won the presidential elections. De la Rosa was
Duterte’s police chief in Davao City when he was mayor.
“I cannot just give up my position. I would be doing a great disservice to the country if I just leave just to give way to him [Apolinario],” de la Rosa said.
De la Rosa led police in the fight against drugs, the centerpiece of the Duterte administration.
A month into the campaign, however, the body count began to rise as police conducted its anti-drug operations known as “Operation Tokhang” and “Oplan Double Barrel.”
Human rights advocates here and abroad claimed that Duterte’s drug war had claimed the lives of about 14,000 individuals from both ends of the political and economic spectrum.
Among the known fatalities were:
• Albuera (Leyte) mayor Rolando Espinosa, an alleged drug lord, who was killed in his detention cell in Leyte last November 2016 by members of the PNP-CIDG in Region 8. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has since downgraded the murder charges against the policemen to homicide.
• Then Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog who, along with his wife Susan and 14 others, was killed in a drug raid in his home in San Roque Lawis.
In August, 57 people were killed in “one-time, big-time” anti-drug operations in Bulacan and Manila.
But it was the death of three teenagers — Kian Loyd de los Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman – in the hands of police that sparked public outrage and drew widespread condemnation, forcing Duterte to take action against the erring policemen by ordering their immediate relief.
A negative public rating prompted de la Rosa to terminate the police drug operations on October 10 as Duterte shifted the responsibility of continuing the campaign to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
And with the impending return of the PNP in the drug war, de la Rosa had this to say: “For now, I expect the men and women of this group to continue living up to the expectations of the community and to remain among the finest members of the PNP family.”