Dela Rosa, architect of Duterte’s deadly drug war, secures a Senate seat

Bato Dela Rosa
A former Davao City police before becoming the country’s top cop, Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa helped President Rodrigo Duterte — a former city mayor — fulfill his promise to eradicate crime and solve the country’s drug menace by bringing the firebrand leader’s brutal narcotics crackdown to the national level.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines (First published at 6:23 p.m. on May 14) — Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa will make his Senate debut after previously taking on the role of the chief enforcer of the Duterte administration’s deadly drug war — a controversial policy that has become unpopular among Filipinos, especially the poor.

The official and final tally showed 19,004,225 voters supported the former Philippine National Police chief’s Senate bid, placing him at the fifth spot in the winners’ circle.

READ: 'Ano ba talaga ang trabaho': Bato to get Koko, JV's help for his new job at Senate

Dela Rosa earlier said his bid to run for Senate has President Rodrigo Duterte's backing. He said he was initially thinking of running for governor of Davao Del Sur.

Dela Rosa and the drug war

A former Davao City police chief before becoming the country’s top cop, Dela Rosa helped Duterte — a former city mayor — fulfill his promise to eradicate crime and solve the country’s drug menace by bringing the firebrand leader’s brutal narcotics crackdown to the national level.

READ: Bato should answer for drug war deaths — HRW

But human rights watchdogs at home and abroad say most of the fatalities in the government’s anti-narcotics drive are extrajudicial killings committed by cops, something the government has vehemently denied.

Under Dela Rosa’s watch, Duterte suspended the anti-drug campaign following the 2016 kidnap-slay of a South Korean businessman at the PNP headquarters. The drug war was later resumed, and Dela Rosa vowed it would be a less violent campaign.

READ: Bato cites killing of Jee Ick-joo, drug war probes as lowest points in his stint as PNP chief

Death penalty revival a priority for Bato

According to a Social Weather Stations survey released last March, 78% of Filipinos are worried that they, or anyone they know, will be a victim of summary execution, up by five points from the preceding poll.

But the pollster also found 71% of Filipinos believe that the administration is “serious in solving the EJK problem.” This is five points above from 66% previously. 

READ: More Pinoys fear being victims of EJK — SWS

“There is popular support for the anti-drug campaign even as people don't support the killings,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, said in an interview. “Dela Rosa gained national awareness due to the campaign.”

Separately, Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza said: "Tokhang's main impact appears concentrated in [National Capital Region] as well as places like Cebu and Bulacan. We need to analyze the voting patterns there to ascertain whether and to what extent the unpopularity of Tokhang in these areas affected that particular candidates' votes."

"Having said this, the incumbency advantage clearly plays a role with each election — and some of the administration candidates may have benefited immensely from their visibility in government, as well as an after effect of the President's continued popularity," Mendoza added.

Dela Rosa said his areas of focus would be law enforcement and peace and order if elected senator.

He added he would push for the re-imposition of the death penalty for drug-related crimes, rape and murder. 

READ: Philippine polls could open door to death penalty return

— Ian Nicolas Cigaral

Editor's note: We have updated this story to reflect the final and official results.



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