EDITORIAL - Whatever happened to…?

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Whatever happened to�

Perhaps because he felt a need to delve on his legacy, President Duterte devoted a considerable portion of his final State of the Nation Address in defense of his priority program, the campaign against illegal drugs.

And perhaps because the country’s judicial system moves at a glacial pace, the President thinks nine Philippine National Police generals he had linked to the drug trade have eluded the law, along with a PNP colonel he had accused of gunrunning.

The President mentioned the rogue PNP officers as he went off-script in his SONA in defense of his brutal crackdown on the drug menace. If his remarks had been vetted before delivery, he would have been informed – as his interior secretary subsequently did – that the nine generals had already been dismissed from the PNP as far back as 2016, with some facing criminal indictments, while the colonel has been investigated by the Department of Justice and Office of the Ombudsman.

The proper question is, what is the status of the cases? And where are the officers? Some of them have denied the accusations that were hurled in public by the President. Although the burden of proof lies in the accuser, presumably they would want their innocence officially established by prosecutors or the courts.

The accusation is a serious one. If true, the so-called narco generals, even if already dismissed from the police service, pose a threat to public safety and their alleged illegal activities must be stopped.

Gunrunning is also a serious offense. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the officer mentioned by the President in his SONA is Lt. Col. Eduardo Acierto, who is no longer with the PNP. Año said Acierto has faced investigation together with the civilian owner of a security agency, Isidro Lozada, who imported 1,000 Russian AK-47 automatic rifles. Was the importation legit?

Both Lozada and Acierto would want to defend themselves, especially since the President has ordered his former police chief, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa: “… if you see them walking around, kindly shoot them dead.”

If you keep shooting people dead and asking questions later, however, there’s always the chance that you will have innocent blood on your hands. The best way to deal with threats to public safety is for judicial authorities to establish the truth, determine guilt, and impose punishment efficiently and quickly.

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