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Shaking on their boots

From the latest public pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte, it would seem the suspension of the deadly “Oplan Tokhang Reloaded” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) would likely be short-lived anew. Smarting from severe criticisms here and abroad on much reported drug-related extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines, President Duterte ordered last month the PNP to suspend Tokhang Reloaded.

On orders of the Commander-in-chief, the PNP turned over the anti-drug campaign to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). The presidential directives followed after a series of alleged excessive use of force by some policemen which resulted to the deaths of teenagers Kian delos Santos, Carl Angelo Arnaiz, Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman one after the other.

When President Duterte first assumed office in July last year, the PNP stepped up its anti-drug campaign. In February this year, an angry President removed the anti-drug war from the PNP after some rogue policemen got involved in series of “Tokhang for ransom” and the murder of Korean Jee Ick Joo right inside Camp Crame in October 2016.

A month later, however, the President gave back to the PNP the anti-drug campaign after taking note of resurgence of drug-related heinous crimes. PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa promised a much-improved anti-drug campaign which he dubbed as Tokhang Reloaded.

Last month though, President Duterte again ordered the PNP to refrain from the drug war as the numerous killings of drug suspects was seen as a factor that caused a significant drop in his trust rating with the killings of teenaged drug suspects.

Only last August this year, the President disclosed in a speech at the 19th anniversary of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) at Malacanang Palace he has updated the drug list of narco-personalities, including politicians, uniformed men and judges among others, may yet serve as “death certificates” for those linked to the shabu and other illegal drugs trade.

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Three mayors whose names appeared on the “narco-list” of President Duterte have so far been killed in reported police anti-drug operations.

Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte was shot dead inside his jail cell early morning of Nov. 5 last year while he was detained at the Baybay City Provincial Jail.

On Oct. 28 last year, Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, was killed with nine others. Camp Crame-based policemen reportedly engaged his group during an anti-illegal drug operation in Makilala, North Cotabato.

The latest to fall in President Duterte’s drug war was the late Reynaldo Parojinog, mayor of Ozamiz City, along with his wife and 10 others who were all slain during a series of pre-dawn police raids at his house in July this year.

Fearing for their lives, Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, with his wife and children left the country on Aug. 31 after the President publicly warned him to end his reported ties with drug personalities or risk being killed.

Aside from his alleged drug links, the Court of Appeals junked Mabilog’s petition to reverse the Ombudsman’s decision removing him from his post over allegations of ill-gotten wealth. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) served the dismissal order against the absentee Mabilog and installed his Vice Mayor to replace him in office.

President Duterte, however, was not pleased by Mabilog’s dismissal, noting it was “very, very late gesture” by the anti-graft body. “Look at Mabilog, I think he is the cousin of [Senator Franklin] Drilon. The Ombudsman, in a very, very late gesture, fired [or] stripped him of his mayorship to deceive the public that they are supportive of me,” President Duterte told his audience at the 25th founding anniversary of the Center for Brighter Beginnings Inc. held at the Davao Convention and Trade Center. Only recently, the President warned Mabilog he is his “next target” for not heeding his  repeated calls for the Mayor to end his alleged link with known drug lords.

While the Chief Executive has his own list of alleged “narco” mayors, more local chief executives found themselves being suspiciously added to this list. Last week, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) stripped 25 local chief executives of their control over the local police for allegedly having private armed groups (PAGs) aiding in narco-trade and in other criminal activities.

Tanauan City Mayor Antonio C. Halili motored all the way from Batangas to join us in our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Remedios Circle in Malate last Wednesday to air his side. Halili was among the 25 local chief executives stripped of their administrative control over the local police due to reported “intelligence information” on each of them claiming their alleged involvement in illegal drugs trade in their respective localities.

Mayor Halili strongly took exceptions on his being involved in any illegal drugs trade which he rued were merely based on “raw” intelligence information on a report submitted to the Napolcom by the PDEA. “I am ready to resign as Mayor and even pay P1 million to this police intelligence officer behind this alleged report linking me to illegal drugs if he can support it with evidence,” Mayor Halili fumed.

Even Senator Cynthia Villar cried foul over the inclusion of her mayor friend in the Napolcom list which she complained was released before it was even verified. Villar raised this issue before DILG officer-in-charge Catalino Cuy during the 2017 budget deliberation at the Senate. Taking up the cudgels for the unnamed mayor, Sen. Villar explained the implicated mayor from Mindanao is her friend and that she can vouch for the integrity of this local official.

The head of the DILG is also chairperson of the Napolcom. The Napolcom issued resolutions revoking the deputation of one governor from Region 9 and 24 mayors from different regions.

With President Duterte breathing down their necks, Mayors all over the country are all shaking on their boots.

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