Winds of change

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Members of the Philippine National Police who are mindful of their career prospects should be following recent developments in Davao City.

In the previous administration, Rodrigo Duterte constantly reassured law enforcers that he’s got their back, that in case of legal problems, he would be the only one to go to prison for his brutal campaign against illegal drugs.

There were persistent rumors that the government at the time had even imposed a quota and put up a reward system for the number of suspects killed or arrested in the war on drugs. So far, no cop has come out to publicly confirm this; Duterte officials have denied it.

Under the new administration, 35 members of the Davao City police including their chief, Col. Ricardo Bad-ang, have been sacked following the killing of at least seven drug suspects.

The Philippine National Police has explained that the 35 are under preventive suspension, as recommended by the PNP’s regional internal affairs office, while the killings are being investigated.

The seven suspects were shot dead within days after Duterte’s son Sebastian, now Davao mayor, declared a renewed crackdown on prohibited drugs in the city. This was on March 22, when Bad-ang assumed the post of city police chief.

Mayor “Baste” had clarified that he did not order the city’s cops to kill drug personalities. What he declared, he stressed, was that he himself would do the killing. Spoken like his father’s son; daddy dearest must be beaming with pride.

But the “powers that be” (to borrow a favorite quote these days) were unimpressed, and aghast over this open defiance of the avowed shift in the approach to the illegal drug scourge.

Over in Quezon, eight police intelligence agents led by a captain were arrested for a drug raid apparently on the wrong house in Lucena before dawn last Friday. Lucena police chief Lt. Col. Reynaldo Reyes was also sacked for command responsibility.

*      *      *

As human rights advocates point out, drug killings continue under President Marcos. His officials did say that such killings could still occur, and yes, suspects violently resisting arrest or nanlaban could elicit a lethal police response.

But the scale of the killings has gone down and the brutality much reduced. People – mostly hampas-lupa – are no longer threatened with a knock at their home and forced to register as drug abusers, or paraded around the town square as drug pushers. The jails are no longer packed to the ceiling, literally, with drug suspects who go half-naked due to the awful ventilation and must take turns sleeping in extremely cramped space.

Since Day One, Bongbong Marcos has made it clear that the brutal Tokhang / Double Barrel approach to the drug problem ended with the Duterte presidency.

Bad-ang and his men must have missed those pronouncements, or believed that BBM must be kidding. Or they probably missed the bad (or good, for some cops) old days of anti-narcotics turkey shoots.

More likely, they must have thought that Davao City remains an independent republic where the Dutertes still reign. And if the city bossing says kill, kill, kill, then cops must follow the order; after all, the Dutertes have their back.

Baste Duterte is invoking local government executives’ jurisdiction over the local police and accusing the PNP of abusing its authority. The mayor is demanding the reinstatement of the 35 cops.

He can take the issue to court. By the time the issue is settled, however, and the PNP finishes its probe of the 35, his first term as mayor could be over. And who knows if the Dutertes will maintain their stranglehold on power in the city in 2025? Marcos 2.0 could support candidates who can put an end to the Duterte dynasty.

Already, we are seeing mass desertions from Digong Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino. His PDP-Laban could end up as the “Volkswagen” party of 2025, with its total membership small enough to fit into a VW Beetle.

Yesterday, the PDP lost a member with a strong voting clout: Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia quit the once ruling party amid a rift with Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama (currently under preventive suspension for six months), who is seen as a Duterte supporter.

*      *      *

Skeptics are wondering if the developments in Davao are a genuine assertion of policy on illegal drugs by Marcos 2.0 or simply part of the intensifying feud between the Dutertes and the current ruling clan.

If the administration wants to prove that this is all about policy, it will have to be sustained, with other cops caught or suspected of carrying out drug-related killings similarly dealt with severely.

The sacked Davao cops have another “sin,” although it would be more complicated to cite it as reason for their suspension: they have failed to enforce several arrest warrants for the Dutertes’ staunch supporter Apollo Quiboloy. The pastor is widely believed to be holed out in Davao, within the sprawling mountain estate of his Kingdom of Jesus Christ ministry.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court approved a request of the Department of Justice to transfer Quiboloy’s cases from Davao to Quezon City. But first he must be found.

Those drug killings gave Marcos 2.0 an opportunity to assert authority in Davao, and over the PNP, amid persistent rumors of destabilization fanned by the Duterte camp.

Marcos 2.0 has four more years (and if political Charter change pushes through, perhaps forever). For PNP members spoiled by the excesses of the previous administration, the developments in Davao should make them feel the winds of change.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with