Task force to check cases of reinstated rogue police after VACC appeal
THE Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday suspended indefinitely the controversial Oplan “Tokhang” and Project “Double Barrel” after the President’s order to immediately disband the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (AIDG) in the aftermath of the abduction and murder of a Korean businessman at the hands of rogue police.
Duterte announced the disbandment in a Malacañang news conference late Sunday where he also said he had rejected PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa’s offer to resign following revelations South Korean national Jee Ick Joo was killed by AIDG men right inside the police headquarters in Camp Crame last October.
“It’s (Jee’s killing) an injustice enough but to ask for the head of the PNP chief, there is no rhyme or reason for that,” Duterte told Palace reporters.
Duterte said he would form a new “narcotics command” to be led by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
Jee’s death has dealt a severe blow to the PNP and Duterte’s anti-drug war, after investigators found that police raided the businessmen’s home in Angeles City, Pampanga using a fake warrant and under the guise of Oplan Tokhang (knock and plead), in which PNP men went to the homes of drug suspects to convince them to surrender.
Senior Police Officer 3 Ricky Santa Isabel allegedly strangled Jee in a parked vehicle near the PNP chief’s office and residence in Camp Crame, then cremated the remains in conspiracy with a Caloocan City mortuary, to hide the evidence of the crime. Santa Isabel, his superior Supt. Raphael Dumlao and several others have been charged with kidnapping and homicide.
Duterte on Monday met Jee’s widow, accompanied by Korean ambassador Kim Jae-shing, in Malacañang.
Drug war extended
With the overhaul of the PNP’s implementation of the drug war, Duterte said he had decided that the campaign would last until the end of his term in 2022, instead of three to six months and a six-month extension until March.
“The drug war I will extend to the last day of my term. Wala na `yung [No more] March deadline,” Duterte said, admitting he was over-confident in setting a six-month deadline when he was a presidential candidate.
An outspoken Catholic bishop said Duterte did the right thing in temporarily suspending all police anti-drug operations.
“I hope it is stopped for good,” Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz told The Manila Times, adding that Oplan Tokhang did not get the desired result because of unnecessary drug-related killings.
Senators also welcomed the decision, saying this would help restore the public’s trust in the police force.
“This is a step in the right direction for the PNP as it works on regaining the public trust after several controversial incidents involving bad elements within the organization,” Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th said.
The President also named Dumlao the mastermind in Jee’s killing and gave him 24 hours to surrender following reports the AIDG team leader slipped out of Camp Crame in violation of his restrictive custody. He also placed a P5-million reward money on Dumlao’s head, dead or alive.
But de la Rosa said Dumlao was back in Camp Crame on Sunday, and had promised to “tell all.”
Duterte said other suspects were at large and gave them 48 hours to turn themselves in.
On Monday, the National Bureau of Investigation denied reports its agents were involved in Jee’s abduction and killing, but presented another suspect, Jerry Omlang, an “asset” and “volunteer” who allegedly conducted surveillance on Jee.
Omlang declined to talk about his involvement but said he had received “death threats” from Dumlao.
De la Rosa on Monday told reporters he had ordered the creation of a counter-intelligence task force that would go after inept, corrupt and undisciplined policemen.
The task force was also directed to look into the cases of policemen who were charged and dismissed from the service but were later reinstated under mysterious circumstances.
This followed Sunday’s call by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) for a probe into the alleged “reinstatement for sale” scheme at the National Police Commission (Napolcom), the oversight body for the PNP, reported by The Manila Times.
The task force will initially be composed of at least 100 police officers, led by a police official with a rank of senior superintendent (colonel in the military).
The PNP chief said he would oversee the task force, which will first concentrate in Metro Manila.
De la Rosa also said he had ordered the PNP Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, the Internal Affairs Service (IAS) and the Directorate for Personnel and Records Management to come up with a list of all scalawags reinstated to the service.
“Let all bad policemen be forewarned. We no longer have a war on drugs but a war on scalawags. We will cleanse our ranks and thereafter come back with a war on drugs,” said de la Rosa.
The VACC on Monday called on the PNP to investigate and account for “collateral victims” of the drug war along with the cleanup of the rank and file.
“Audit records of all PNP officers and men with complaints at Napolcom,” the anti-crime group said.
Senator Grace Poe urged the PNP to strengthen the IAS by giving it authority to investigate and dismiss corrupt and unworthy police personnel without the PNP chief’s approval.
WITH REPORTS FROM FERNAN MARASIGAN, JAIME R. PILAPIL, JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA AND WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL